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Relationships among different facets of host specificity in three taxa of haematophagous ectoparasites

van der Mescht, Luther, Warburton, Elizabeth M., Khokhlova, Irina S., Vinarski, Maxim V., Korallo-Vinarskaya, Natalia P., Krasnov, Boris R.
International journal for parasitology 2017 v.47 no.14 pp. 961-969
Diptera, Neotropics, Palearctic region, Siphonaptera, ectoparasites, host specificity, hosts, mites, models, natural selection, phylogeny, small mammals, surveys
Host specificity is a fundamental trait of a parasite species. Recently, multiple aspects of host specificity have been recognized, but the relationships between these facets are still poorly understood. Here, we studied pairwise relationships between basic, structural, phylogenetic and geographic host specificity in three taxa of haematophagous ectoparasitic arthropods that differ in tightness of their association with the host. We asked which metrics of host specificity are correlated within each parasite taxon and whether the patterns of the association between different facets of host specificity are similar among parasite taxa. Data on bat flies were taken from published surveys across the Neotropics while data on fleas and mites parasitic on small mammals were compiled from multiple published surveys across the Palaearctic. Basic, structural, phylogenetic and geographic specificity indices were calculated for 18 bat fly species recorded on 40 host species from 15 regions, 109 flea species recorded on 120 host species from 51 regions and 34 mite species recorded on 67 host species from 28 regions. Then, we tested for the correlation between any two measures of host specificity using model II regressions. We found that structural and basic specificity, as well as structural and geographic specificity, exhibited a positive association in all three taxa. However, basic and geographic specificity, as well as basic and phylogenetic specificity, were significantly positively associated in fleas but did not correlate in bat flies or mites. In addition, we found a significant negative association between structural and phylogenetic specificity in bat flies but no association in the remaining taxa. Moreover, geographic and phylogenetic specificity were not associated in any parasite taxon. Our results suggest that different facets of host specificity were shaped differently by natural selection in different taxa.