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Parasitology. 2005 Nov;131(Pt 5):713-22.

Physico-chemical determinants of helminth component community structure in whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformes) from adjacent lakes in Northern Alberta, Canada.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta T1K 3M4, Canada.


Populations of hosts vary extensively in the types and numbers of parasites that the average individual contains. Understanding the factors that lead to this variation is an important goal for parasite ecologists. We characterized patterns of helminth component community structure in whitefish collected from a cluster of 7 lakes located on an isolated plateau in northern Alberta, Canada. Component communities were species rich (5-6 species per lake), high in mean helminth intensity (approximately 80-500 individuals/host), and high in between-lake similarity (50-100%), a pattern consistent with results from studies on whitefish sampled from other localities in Northern Canada and Europe. Multivariate analyses indicated that the structure of the component communities was associated with 2 opposing environmental gradients. One was defined primarily by water colour, the second by phosphorous concentration. Thus, 4 lakes were characterized by a combination of high colour, low productivity, low parasite intensities, and the absence of larval acanthocephalans. Habitat/species associations were less clear as intensities increased, but the 3 remaining lakes tended to have the opposite characteristics. These results provide evidence that variation in helminth component community structure in fish is associated with variation in physicochemical characteristics that are linked to aquatic productivity.

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