skip to main content


Title: Linking community assembly and structure across scales in a wild mouse parasite community
Abstract

Understanding what processes drive community structure is fundamental to ecology. Many wild animals are simultaneously infected by multiple parasite species, so host–parasite communities can be valuable tools for investigating connections between community structures at multiple scales, as each host can be considered a replicate parasite community. Like free‐living communities, within‐host–parasite communities are hierarchical; ecological interactions between hosts and parasites can occur at multiple scales (e.g., host community, host population, parasite community within the host), therefore, both extrinsic and intrinsic processes can determine parasite community structure. We combine analyses of community structure and assembly at both the host population and individual scales using extensive datasets on wild wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) and their parasite community. An analysis of parasite community nestedness at the host population scale provided predictions about the order of infection at the individual scale, which were then tested using parasite community assembly data from individual hosts from the same populations. Nestedness analyses revealed parasite communities were significantly more structured than random. However, observed nestedness did not differ from null models in which parasite species abundance was kept constant. We did not find consistency between observed community structure at the host population scale and within‐host order of infection. Multi‐state Markov models of parasite community assembly showed that a host's likelihood of infection with one parasite did not consistently follow previous infection by a different parasite species, suggesting there is not a deterministic order of infection among the species we investigated in wild wood mice. Our results demonstrate that patterns at one scale (i.e., host population) do not reliably predict processes at another scale (i.e., individual host), and that neutral or stochastic processes may be driving the patterns of nestedness observed in these communities. We suggest that experimental approaches that manipulate parasite communities are needed to better link processes at multiple ecological scales.

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10458343
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Ecology and Evolution
Volume:
9
Issue:
24
ISSN:
2045-7758
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 13752-13763
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. 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 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. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    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. Quantifyingβ‐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 regillaand 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 howβ‐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 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.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract Individual animals in natural populations tend to host diverse parasite species concurrently over their lifetimes. In free‐living ecological communities, organismal life histories shape interactions with their environment, which ultimately forms the basis of ecological succession. However, the structure and dynamics of mammalian parasite communities have not been contextualized in terms of primary ecological succession, in part because few datasets track occupancy and abundance of multiple parasites in wild hosts starting at birth. Here, we studied community dynamics of 12 subtypes of protozoan microparasites ( Theileria spp.) in a herd of African buffalo. We show that Theileria communities followed predictable patterns of succession underpinned by four different parasite life history strategies. However, in contrast to many free‐living communities, network complexity decreased with host age. Examining parasite communities through the lens of succession may better inform the effect of complex within host eco‐evolutionary dynamics on infection outcomes, including parasite co‐existence through the lifetime of the host. 
    more » « less
  4. Understanding the role of biotic interactions in shaping natural communities is a long-standing challenge in ecology. It is particularly pertinent to parasite communities sharing the same host communities and individuals, as the interactions among parasites—both competition and facilitation—may have far-reaching implications for parasite transmission and evolution. Aggregated parasite burdens may suggest that infected host individuals are either more prone to infection, or that infection by a parasite species facilitates another, leading to a positive parasite–parasite interaction. However, parasite species may also compete for host resources, leading to the prediction that parasite–parasite associations would be generally negative, especially when parasite species infect the same host tissue, competing for both resources and space. We examine the presence and strength of parasite associations using hierarchical joint species distribution models fitted to data on resident parasite communities sampled on over 1300 small mammal individuals across 22 species and their resident parasite communities. On average, we detected more positive associations between infecting parasite species than negative, with the most negative associations occurring when two parasite species infected the same host tissue, suggesting that parasite species associations may be quantifiable from observational data. Overall, our findings suggest that parasite community prediction at the level of the individual host is possible, and that parasite species associations may be detectable in complex multi-species communities, generating many hypotheses concerning the effect of host community changes on parasite community composition, parasite competition within infected hosts, and the drivers of parasite community assembly and structure. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Helminth parasites can have wide‐ranging, detrimental effects on host reproduction and survival. These effects are best documented in humans and domestic animals, while only a few studies in wild mammals have identified both the forces that drive helminth infection risk and their costs to individual fitness.

    Working in a well‐studied population of wild baboons (Papio cynocephalus) in the Amboseli ecosystem in Kenya, we pursued two goals, to (a) examine the costs of helminth infections in terms of female fertility and glucocorticoid hormone levels and (b) test how processes operating at multiple scales—from individual hosts to social groups and the population at large—work together to predict variation in female infection risk.

    To accomplish these goals, we measured helminth parasite burdens in 745 faecal samples collected over 5 years from 122 female baboons. We combine these data with detailed observations of host environments, social behaviours, hormone levels and interbirth intervals (IBIs).

    We found that helminths are costly to female fertility: females infected with more diverse parasite communities (i.e., higher parasite richness) exhibited longer IBIs than females infected by fewer parasite taxa. We also found that females exhibiting highTrichuris trichiuraegg counts also had high glucocorticoid levels. Female infection risk was best predicted by factors at the host, social group and population level: females facing the highest risk were old, socially isolated, living in dry conditions and infected with other helminths.

    Our results provide an unusually holistic understanding of the factors that contribute to inter‐individual differences in parasite infection, and they contribute to just a handful of studies linking helminths to host fitness in wild mammals.

     
    more » « less