Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles

Host Ecology and Biogeography Drive Parasite Community Composition in Atlantic Killifishes


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Fundulus, Endoparasites, Assemblages, Similarity, Phylogeny


Understanding the mechanisms of parasite community assembly can be confounded by phylogenetic distance among host species. Addressing this requires focusing on parasite communities within closely related taxa. Thus, we took a macroecological approach to examining parasite community structure within Killifish species in the genus Fundulus to disentangle the effects of host phylogeny and ecological variables. We constructed a database of parasite communities within Fundulus species from 15 published and unpublished surveys covering the Atlantic coast of the US and Canada. The database was expanded by sampling sites in underrepresented provinces and states, totaling 10 Fundulus species from 57 unique geographic sites. Univariate analysis of observed parasite species richness among Fundulus populations in the dataset found that latitude, climate type, and salinity were the dominant factors determining parasite species richness. Multivariate analysis found that host species and landscape type were the most important factors in determining the similarity of parasite assemblages. Unexpectedly, parasite species richness decreased in low latitudes, and host phylogenetic distance was not found to be a significant factor in the similarity of parasite communities. These results indicate that commonly reported large-scale drivers of parasite community structure, such as latitude and phylogeny, could have diminished significance at the host genus level relative to host ecology, biogeography, and local landscape factors.



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© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2023

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Special Issue: Parasites in Aquatic Ecology

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