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Factors influencing infection patterns of trophically transmitted parasites among a fish community: host diet, host–parasite compatibility or both?

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Parasite infection patterns were compared with the occurrence of their intermediate hosts in the diet of nine sympatric fish species in a New Zealand lake. Stomach contents and infection levels of three gastrointestinal helminth species were examined from the entire fish community. The results highlighted some links between fish host diet and the flow of trophically transmitted helminths. Stomach contents indicated that all but one fish species were exposed to these helminths through their diet. Host feeding behaviour best explained infection patterns of the trematode Coitocaecum parvum among the fish community. Infection levels of the nematode Hedruris spinigera and the acanthocephalan Acanthocephalus galaxii, however, were not correlated with host diets. Host specificity is thus likely to modulate parasite infection patterns. The data indicate that host diet and host–parasite compatibility both contribute to the distribution of helminths in the fish community. Furthermore, the relative influence of encounter (trophic interactions between prey and predator hosts) and compatibility (host suitability) filters on infection levels appeared to vary between host–parasite species associations. Therefore, understanding parasite infection patterns and their potential impacts on fish communities requires determining the relative roles of encounter and compatibility filters within and across all potential host–parasite associations.

Document Type: Regular Paper


Publication date: August 1, 2011

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