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Am Nat. 2009 Apr;173(4):467-74. doi: 10.1086/597227.

Home range and parasite diversity in mammals.

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Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Université de Montpellier 2, Montpellier, France.


Parasite diversity among and within host species is not solely the result of random processes; rather, it depends on a suite of physiological or ecological host traits as well as environmental factors. Because most macroparasites exhibit life cycles that include infective stages off the definitive host and that rely on host movements for dissemination, parasite acquisition by a host depends largely on hosts being present in a given area where and when infective stages are present. Consequently, host ranging pattern may have a major influence on parasite diversity. Larger home range size is hypothesized to be associated with higher parasite species richness because hosts living in large home ranges should encounter a greater diversity of habitats and other host individuals, which in turn may favor infection by a great diversity of parasite species. By focusing on helminths in wild mammals, we show that an increase in home range area does not lead to an increase in parasite diversity in ungulates and, moreover, that it is associated with a decrease in parasite species richness in carnivores and in glires (rodents and lagomorphs). We also show that home range size is negatively correlated with host density in mammals after correcting both variables for host body mass. We discuss these results from an epidemiological perspective.

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