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Aggregative structure is the rule in communities of fleas: null model analysis

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We used null models to examine patterns of species co‐occurrences in 59 communities of fleas parasitic on small mammals from 4 biogeographic realms (Afrotropics, Nearctic, Neotropics, and Palaearctic). We compared frequencies of co‐occurrences of flea species across host species with those expected by chance, using a null model approach. We used 4 tests for non‐randomness to identify pairs of species (within a community) that demonstrate significant positive or negative co‐occurrence. The majority of flea communities were non‐randomly assembled. Patterns of flea co‐occurrences on the same host species indicated aggregation but not segregation of flea species (except for the flea community of Madagascar). Although only a small fraction of species pairs were associated significantly (264 of 10, 943 species pairs according to the most liberal criterion), most of these associations were positive (except for 2 negatively associated species pairs). Significantly associated pairs were represented mainly by non‐congeneric species. The degree of non‐randomness of the entire flea community was similar among biogeographic regions, but the strength of pair‐wise association varied geographically, being the highest in the Afrotropics and the lowest in the European region of the Palaearctic.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2011

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