Understanding factors that facilitate interspecific pathogen transmission is a central issue for conservation, agriculture, and human health. Past work showed that host phylogenetic relatedness and geographical proximity can increase cross‐species transmission, but further work is needed to examine the importance of host traits, and species interactions such as predation, in determining the degree to which parasites are shared between hosts.
Here we consider the factors that predict patterns of parasite sharing across a diverse assemblage of 116 wild ungulates (i.e., hoofed mammals in the Artiodactyla and Perissodactyla) and nearly 900 species of micro‐ and macroparasites, controlling for differences in total parasite richness and host sampling effort. We also consider the effects of trophic links on parasite sharing between ungulates and carnivores.
We tested for the relative influence of range overlap, phylogenetic distance, body mass, and ecological dissimilarity (i.e., the distance separating species in a Euclidean distance matrix based on standardized traits) on parasite sharing. We also tested for the effects of variation in study effort as a potential source of bias in our data, and tested whether carnivores reported to feed on ungulates have more ungulate parasites than those that use other resources.
As in other groups, geographical range overlap and phylogeneticmore »
Overall, we show that the factors that predict parasite sharing in wild ungulates are similar to those known for other mammal groups, and demonstrate the importance of controlling for heterogeneity in host sampling effort in future analyses of parasite sharing. We also show that ecological interactions, in this case trophic links via predation, can allow sharing of some parasite species among distantly related host species.