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An increased number of individuals of a potential host facilitates non-photic synchronisation in the haematophagous insect Triatoma infestans.

BACKGROUND: Triatoma infestans (Kissing bug) is the main vector of the parasite causative of Chagas disease in Latin-America. This species shows clear activity rhythms easily synchronised to day-night cycles (photic cycle). The haematophagous nature of these insects lead us to think that they may temporally adapt to the particular activity rhythms of potential hosts (non-photic cycle). Our previous data showed that kissing bugs were weakly affected by the activity-inactivity rhythm of a single host.

OBJETIVE: To determine if by increasing the number of individuals of a potential host, T. infestans could increase the likelihood of synchronisation.

METHODS: Individual activity rhythms of experimental insects, maintained in constant darkness in light-tight cabinets, localised in a room with 24 rodents, were continuously monitored. Another insect group that served as control was maintained in the same conditions but in a room without rodents.

FINDINGS: Most of the experimental insects synchronised, expressing a 24 h period coincident with the activity-inactivity rhythms of the rodents, while the controls free ran with a period significantly longer than 24 h.

CONCLUSION: Analogous to what happens with high vs low light intensity in photic synchronisers, a high number of rodents, in contrast to the previous one-rodent experiment, increased the potency of this non-photic zeitgeber.

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