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  1. 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. 
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