The quality of offspring produced by parent fleas (Xenopsylla ramesis) fed on either male or female rodent hosts (Meriones crassus) was studied. The emergence success, duration of development, resistance to starvation upon emergence and body size of the flea offspring were measured. It was predicted that offspring of fleas produced by parents that fed on male hosts (i) will survive better as pre-imago, (ii) will develop faster, (iii) will live longer under starvation after emergence and (iv) will be larger than offspring of fleas fed on female hosts. The emergence success of pre-imaginal fleas was relatively high, ranging from 46.9% to 100.0% and averaging 78.4±3.0%, and was not affected by host gender. The duration of development of pre-imaginal fleas depended on the gender of the host of parents and differed between male and female offspring, with female fleas developing faster. Furthermore, male fleas developed faster if their parents fed on female rather than on male hosts, whereas no difference in the duration of development between host genders was found in female fleas. The time to death under starvation did not depend on the gender of either the flea or the host. A newly emerged flea, on average, lived 31.9±1.0 days without access to food. The relationship between host gender and body size of male flea offspring was the only effect that supported the predictions. An increase in body size in male fleas could increase their mating success and, ultimately, their fitness.
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