Grooming in desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis mexicana) and the ghost of parasites past

Michael S. Mooring, Benjamin Hart, Thomas A. Fitzpatrick, Dominic D. Reisig, Tara T. Nishihira, Ian C. Fraser, Jill E. Benjamin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Ectoparasites such as ticks have a negative effect on host fitness, whereas parasite-defense grooming is effective in removing ticks. The central control (programmed grooming) model proposes that animals engage in preventive tick-defense grooming in response to an internal timing mechanism, even in the absence of peripheral stimulation from parasites. This model predicts that smaller animals will groom more frequently than larger ones because of the higher cost of parasitism for a small animal (body size principle). The peripheral stimulation (stimulus driven) model predicts no size-related differences in grooming rate in the absence of tick bite irritation. We observed grooming behavior in a Chihuahuan desert population of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis mexicana), where ticks have been absent for perhaps thousands of years. Although not exposed to ticks, bighorns self groomed by means of oral and scratch grooming, albeit at very low rates compared to size-matched ungulates in both tick-infested and tick-free environments. Logistic regression and general linear models revealed both the probability that grooming was performed during a 10-min focal sample and the rate of grooming when it occurred was greater for younger, smaller age/sex categories of less body mass. Oral and scratch grooming were negatively associated with body mass during both years, with juveniles (X = 15 kg) grooming the most frequently and the oldest males (X = 70-85 kg) grooming the least. Assuming that programmed grooming evolved in a tick-infested environment, the current grooming behavior of this population is a relict of their ancestral environment, an adaptation to the "ghost of parasites past."

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-371
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Volume17
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 18 2006

Fingerprint

Ovis canadensis
grooming
grooming (animal behavior)
sheep
deserts
parasite
tick
desert
parasites
ticks
body mass
animal
mouth
tick bites
Chihuahuan Desert
ectoparasite
ungulate
ectoparasites
ungulates
parasitism

Keywords

  • Body size principle
  • Desert bighorn
  • Grooming
  • Programmed grooming model
  • Ticks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this

Mooring, M. S., Hart, B., Fitzpatrick, T. A., Reisig, D. D., Nishihira, T. T., Fraser, I. C., & Benjamin, J. E. (2006). Grooming in desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis mexicana) and the ghost of parasites past. Behavioral Ecology, 17(3), 364-371. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arj039

Grooming in desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis mexicana) and the ghost of parasites past. / Mooring, Michael S.; Hart, Benjamin; Fitzpatrick, Thomas A.; Reisig, Dominic D.; Nishihira, Tara T.; Fraser, Ian C.; Benjamin, Jill E.

In: Behavioral Ecology, Vol. 17, No. 3, 18.04.2006, p. 364-371.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Mooring, MS, Hart, B, Fitzpatrick, TA, Reisig, DD, Nishihira, TT, Fraser, IC & Benjamin, JE 2006, 'Grooming in desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis mexicana) and the ghost of parasites past', Behavioral Ecology, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 364-371. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arj039
Mooring, Michael S. ; Hart, Benjamin ; Fitzpatrick, Thomas A. ; Reisig, Dominic D. ; Nishihira, Tara T. ; Fraser, Ian C. ; Benjamin, Jill E. / Grooming in desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis mexicana) and the ghost of parasites past. In: Behavioral Ecology. 2006 ; Vol. 17, No. 3. pp. 364-371.
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