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Decay of similarity of gamasid mite assemblages parasitic on Palaearctic small mammals: geographic distance, host-species composition or environment

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Abstract Aim 

The similarity between parasite assemblages should decrease with increasing geographic distance between them, increasing dissimilarity in environmental conditions, and/or increasing dissimilarity of the local host fauna, depending on the dispersal abilities of the parasites and the intimacy of their associations with the host. We tested for a decay in the similarity of gamasid mite assemblages parasitic on small mammals with increasing geographic, ‘environmental’ and ‘host faunal’ (= ‘host’) distances. Location 

We used data on assemblages of haematophagous gamasid mites (superfamily Dermanyssoidea) parasitic on small mammals (Insectivora, Lagomorpha and Rodentia) from 26 different regions of the northern Palaearctic. Methods 

Similarity in mite assemblages was investigated at the compound community level across all regions, and at the component community level, across populations of the same host species for each of 11 common host species. Similarity between pairs of mite communities was estimated using both the Jaccard and the Sorensen indices. Environmental distance was estimated as the dissimilarity between locations in a composite measure of climatic variables, and host faunal distance was simply taken as the reciprocal of indices of similarity between the composition of host faunas in different locations. Generalized Linear Models (GLM) and Akaike's Information Criterion were used to select the best model of decay in similarity as a function of geographic, ‘environmental’ and ‘host faunal’ distances. Results 

Overall, despite slight differences among host species, the similarity in mite assemblages decreased with both increasing ‘environmental’ distance and increasing ‘host faunal’ distance, but was generally unaffected by geographic distance between regions. The similarity of component communities of gamasid mites among host populations was determined mainly by similarity in the physical environment, whereas that of compound communities varied mainly with host-species composition. Main conclusions 

Our results indicate that the general decay in community similarity with increasing geographic distances does not apply to assemblages of gamasid mites; it is possible that they can overcome great distances by means of passive dispersal (either by phoresy or wind-borne), or more likely they occur wherever their hosts are found as a result of tight cospeciation in the past. Mite assemblages on small mammalian hosts seem to be affected mainly by local environmental conditions, and, to a much lesser extent, by the species composition of local host communities.
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Keywords: Climate; Dermanyssoidea; community similarity; dispersal; haematophagous ectoparasites; host specificity; northern Palaearctic; small mammals

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Ecology and Environment Conservation, Omsk State Pedagogical University, Tukhachevskogo emb. 14, 644099 Omsk, Russia 2: Laboratory of Arthropod-Borne Viral Infections, Omsk Research Institute of Natural Foci Infections, Mira str. 7, 644080 Omsk, Russia 3: Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede-Boqer Campus, 84990 Midreshet Ben-Gurion, Israel and Ramon Science Center, PO Box 194, Mizpe Ramon 80600, Israel 4: Department of Zoology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand

Publication date: 01 October 2007

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