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Spatial variation in species diversity and composition of flea assemblages in small mammalian hosts: geographical distance or faunal similarity?

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Abstract Aim 

Spatial variation in the diversity of fleas parasitic on small mammals was examined to answer three questions. (1) Is the diversity of flea assemblages repeatable among populations of the same host species? (2) Does similarity in the composition of flea assemblages among populations of the same host species decay with geographical distance, with decreasing similarity in the composition of local host faunas, or with both? (3) Does the diversity of flea assemblages correlate with climatic variables? Location 

The study used previously published data on 69 species of small mammals and their fleas from 24 different regions of the Holarctic. Methods

The diversity of flea assemblages was measured as both species richness and the average taxonomic distinctness of their component species. Similarity between flea assemblages was measured using both the Jaccard and Morisita–Horn indices, whereas similarity in the composition of host faunas between regions (host ‘faunal’ distance) was quantified using the Jaccard index. Where appropriate, a correction was made for the potentially confounding influence of phylogeny using the independent contrasts method. Results 

Flea species richness varied less within than among host species, and is thus a repeatable host species character; the same was not true of the taxonomic distinctness of flea assemblages. In almost all host species found in at least five regions, similarity in flea assemblages decreased with increases in either or both geographical and faunal distance. In most host species, the diversity of flea assemblages correlated with one or more climatic variable, in particular mean winter temperature. Main conclusions 

Spatial variation in flea diversity among populations of the same mammal species is constrained by the fact that it appears to be a species character, but is also driven by local climatic conditions. The results highlight how ecological processes interact with co-evolutionary history to determine local parasite biodiversity.

Keywords: Faunal similarity; Holarctic mammals; fleas; geographical distance; parasite species richness; small mammals

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Ramon Science Center and Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Mizpe Ramon, Israel 2: UMR CNRS-UMII 5119 Ecosystemes Lagunaires, University of Montpellier II, Montpellier Cedex, France 3: Desert Animal Adaptations and Husbandry, Wyler Department of Dryland Agriculture, Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boqer Campus, Israel 4: Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Publication date: April 1, 2005


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