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Macroecology of a host-parasite relationship

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The larvae of freshwater mussels are obligate ectoparasites on fishes while adults are sedentary and benthic. Dispersal of mussels is dependent on the movement of fish hosts, a regional process, but growth and reproduction should be governed by local processes. Thus, mussel assemblage attributes should be predictable from the regional distribution and abundance of fishes. At a broad spatial scale in the Red River drainage, USA, mussel species richness and fish species richness were positively associated; maximum mussel richness was limited by fish richness, but was variable beneath that constraint. Measured environmental variables and the associated local fish assemblages each significantly accounted for the regional variation in mussel assemblages. Furthermore, mussel assemblages showed strong spatial autocorrelation. Variation partitioning revealed that pure fish effects accounted for 15.4% of the variation in mussel assemblages; pure spatial and environmental effects accounted for 16.1% and 7.8%, respectively. Shared variation among fish, space and environmental variables totaled 40%. Of this shared variation, 36.8% was associated with the fish matrix. Thus, the variation in mussel assemblages that was associated with the distribution and abundance of fishes was substantial (> 50%), indicating that fish community structure is an important determinant of mussel community structure. Although animals commonly disperse plants and, thus, influence the structure of plant communities, our results show a strong macroecological association between two disparate animal groups with one strongly affecting the assemblage structure of the other.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: ( ), Oklahoma Biological Survey and Dept of Zoology, Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019, USA., Email: [email protected] 2: Dept of Biological Sciences, Mississippi State Univ., P.O. Drawer GY, MS 39762, USA.

Publication date: February 1, 2000

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