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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 May 22;272(1567):1059-66.

Host diversity begets parasite diversity: bird final hosts and trematodes in snail intermediate hosts.

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  • 1Marine Science Institute and the Department of Ecology, Evolution & Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, 93106-2774, USA.


An unappreciated facet of biodiversity is that rich communities and high abundance may foster parasitism. For parasites that sequentially use different host species throughout complex life cycles, parasite diversity and abundance in 'downstream' hosts should logically increase with the diversity and abundance of 'upstream' hosts (which carry the preceding stages of parasites). Surprisingly, this logical assumption has little empirical support, especially regarding metazoan parasites. Few studies have attempted direct tests of this idea and most have lacked the appropriate scale of investigation. In two different studies, we used time-lapse videography to quantify birds at fine spatial scales, and then related bird communities to larval trematode communities in snail populations sampled at the same small spatial scales. Species richness, species heterogeneity and abundance of final host birds were positively correlated with species richness, species heterogeneity and abundance of trematodes in host snails. Such community-level interactions have rarely been demonstrated and have implications for community theory, epidemiological theory and ecosystem management.

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