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Title: Tracking the assembly of nested parasite communities: using β-diversity to understand variation in parasite richness and composition over time and scale
Community composition is driven by a few key assembly processes: ecological selection, drift and dispersal. Nested parasite communities represent a powerful study system for understanding the relative importance of these processes and their relationship with biological scale. Quantifying β‐diversity across scales and over time additionally offers mechanistic insights into the ecological processes shaping the distributions of parasites and therefore infectious disease. To examine factors driving parasite community composition, we quantified the parasite communities of 959 amphibian hosts representing two species (the Pacific chorus frog, Pseudacris regilla and the California newt, Taricha torosa) sampled over 3 months from 10 ponds in California. Using additive partitioning, we estimated how much of regional parasite richness (γ‐diversity) was composed of within‐host parasite richness (α‐diversity) and turnover (β‐diversity) at three biological scales: across host individuals, across species and across habitat patches (ponds). We also examined how β‐diversity varied across time at each biological scale. Differences among ponds comprised the majority (40%) of regional parasite diversity, followed by differences among host species (23%) and among host individuals (12%). Host species supported parasite communities that were less similar than expected by null models, consistent with ecological selection, although these differences lessened through time, likely due to high dispersal rates more » of infectious stages. Host individuals within the same population supported more similar parasite communities than expected, suggesting that host heterogeneity did not strongly impact parasite community composition and that dispersal was high at the individual host-level. Despite the small population sizes of within‐host parasite communities, drift appeared to play a minimal role in structuring community composition. Dispersal and ecological selection appear to jointly drive parasite community assembly, particularly at larger biological scales. The dispersal ability of aquatic parasites with complex life cycles differs strongly across scales, meaning that parasite communities may predictably converge at small scales where dispersal is high, but may be more stochastic and unpredictable at larger scales. Insights into assembly mechanisms within multi‐host, multi‐parasite systems provide opportunities for understanding how to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases within human and wildlife hosts. « less
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Journal of animal ecology
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National Science Foundation
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