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Int J Parasitol. 1994 Dec;24(8):1333-43.

Host fragmentation and helminth parasites: hedging your bets against extinction.

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Department of Zoology, Brandon University, Manitoba, Canada.


We consider the probability of parasite extinction due to anthropogenic fragmentation of host populations and in the absence of host extinction. We conclude that extinction at infrapopulation and infracommunity levels is both common and trivial. Extinction may occur in communities at higher levels but only if metapopulations or suprapopulations become extinct. Suprapopulations are highly complex and unlikely to become extinct in the face of simple host fragmentation. We acknowledge parasite metapopulations as being the most likely to become extinct, but only locally. Our reasoning for this is that, in the absence of complete host extinction, populations of the parasite in other fragments are likely to serve as sources for reinvasion (e.g. a rescue effect). We identify a number of features that may act as hedges against extinction for many parasites and conclude by attempting to identify what form an extinction might take.

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