Two hypotheses explain male-biased parasitism. Physiological costs of male sexually selected characteristics can reduce immunocompetence. Alternatively, ecological differences could generate male-biased parasitism. One method of comparing the importance of the two theories is to investigate patterns of phoresy, which are only likely to be generated by ecological rather than immunological differences between the sexes. Here we studied the pattern of phoresy of the mite, Thinoseius fucicola, on two species of seaweed fly hosts, Coelopa frigida and Coelopa pilipes. We found a highly male-biased pattern of phoresy of T. fucicola on both species. These are the first reported instances of sex-biased phoresy in a solely phoretic parasite. We also show the first two cases of size-biased phoresy. We suggest that ecological factors, particularly, male mate searching, generated male biased patterns of phoresy. We highlight the potential importance of studies of phoresy in determining the relative roles of the immunocompetence and ecological theories in generating male-biased parasitism. We suggest that more studies of patterns of phoresy are carried out to allow detailed comparisons with patterns of parasitism.
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