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Qualitative community stability determines parasite establishment and richness in estuarine marshes

Author(s): Tavis K. Anderson | Michael V.K. Sukhdeo

Journal: PeerJ
ISSN 2167-8359

Volume: 1;
Start page: e92;
Date: 2013;
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Keywords: Food web | Complex life cycle | Parasite establishment | Qualitative stability | Parasite ecology | Parasite diversity | Biodiversity | Ecological network

The establishment of parasites with complex life cycles is generally thought to be regulated by free-living species richness and the stability of local ecological interactions. In this study, we test the prediction that stable host communities are prerequisite for the establishment of complex multi-host parasite life cycles. The colonization of naïve killifish, Fundulus heteroclitus, by parasites was investigated in 4 salt marsh sites that differed in time since major ecological restoration, and which provided a gradient in free-living species richness. The richness of the parasite community, and the rate at which parasite species accumulated in the killifish, were similar between the low diversity unrestored site and the two high diversity (10- and 20-year) restored marsh sites. The parasite community in the newly restored marsh (0 year) included only directly-transmitted parasite species. To explain the paradox of a low diversity, highly invaded salt marsh (unrestored) having the same parasite community as highly diverse restored marsh sites (10 and 20 yrs) we assessed qualitative community stability. We find a significant correlation between system stability and parasite species richness. These data suggest a role for local stability in parasite community assembly, and support the idea that stable trophic relationships are required for the persistence of complex parasite life cycles.

Tango Jona
Tangokurs Rapperswil-Jona

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