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Inter‐oceanic variation in patterns of host‐associated divergence in a seabird ectoparasite

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Aim  Parasites with global distributions and wide host spectra provide excellent models for exploring the factors that drive parasite diversification. Here, we tested the relative force of host and geography in shaping population structure of a widely distributed and common ectoparasite of colonial seabirds, the tick Ixodes uriae.

Location  Two natural geographic replicates of the system: numerous seabird colonies of the North Pacific and North Atlantic Ocean basins.

Methods  Using eight microsatellite markers and tick samples from a suite of multi‐specific seabird colonies, we examined tick population structure in the North Pacific and compare patterns of diversity and structure to those in the Atlantic basin. Analyses included population genetic estimations of diversity and population differentiation, exploratory multivariate analyses, and Bayesian clustering approaches. These different analyses explicitly took into account both the geographic distance among colonies and host use by the tick.

Results  Overall, little geographic structure was observed among Pacific tick populations. However, host‐related genetic differentiation was evident, but was variable among host types and lower than in the North Atlantic.

Main conclusions  Tick population structure is concordant with the genetic structure observed in seabird host species within each ocean basin, where seabird populations tend to be less structured in the North Pacific than in the North Atlantic. Reduced tick genetic structure in the North Pacific suggests that host movement among colonies, and thus tick dispersal, is higher in this region. In addition to information on parasite diversity and gene flow, our findings raise interesting questions about the subtle ways that host behaviour, distribution and phylogeographic history shape the genetics of associated parasites across geographic landscapes.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Maladies Infectieuses et Vecteurs: Ecologie, Génétique, Evolution et Contrôle, UMR CNRS 5290-IRD 224-UM1-UM2, Centre IRD, 911 Avenue Agropolis, BP 64501, 34394 Montpellier, France 2: Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AL, USA 3: Environment Canada, Delta, BC, Canada 4: Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, CNRS UMR 5175, Montpellier, France

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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