Prevention of Population Cycles by Parasite Removal

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Science  18 Dec 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5397, pp. 2256-2258
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5397.2256

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The regular cyclic fluctuations in vertebrate numbers have intrigued scientists for more than 70 years, and yet the cause of such cycles has not been clearly demonstrated. Red grouse populations in Britain exhibit cyclic fluctuations in abundance, with periodic crashes. The hypothesis that these fluctuations are caused by the impact of a nematode parasite on host fecundity was tested by experimentally reducing parasite burdens in grouse. Treatment of the grouse population prevented population crashes, demonstrating that parasites were the cause of the cyclic fluctuations.

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