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Patterns of gregarine parasitism in dragonflies: host, habitat, and seasonality

Locklin, Jason L., Vodopich, Darrell S.
Parasitology research 2010 v.107 no.1 pp. 75-87
Anisoptera (Odonata), Protozoa, arthropods, gender, gregarines, habitats, hosts, parasitism, population density, regression analysis, viability, Texas
Gregarines are ubiquitous protozoan parasites that infect arthropods worldwide. More than 1,600 gregarine species have been described, but only a small percentage of invertebrates have been surveyed for these apicomplexan parasites. Adult dragonfly populations were surveyed for gregarines at two reservoirs in Texas, USA for 2 years. Gregarine prevalence and intensity were compared intraspecifically between host genders and reservoirs, among wing loads, and through time. Of the 29 dragonfly species collected, 41% hosted gregarines. Nine of these dragonfly species were previously undocumented as hosts. Among the commonly collected hosts, prevalence ranged from 18 to 52%. Parasites were aggregated among hosts and had a median intensity of five parasites per host. Gregarines were found only in hosts exceeding a minimum wing load, indicating that gregarines are likely not transferred from the naiad to adult during emergence. Prevalence and intensity increased during both years, suggesting that gregarine oocyst viability parallels increasing host population densities and may be short-lived. Prevalence and intensity also differed between dragonfly populations at two reservoirs. Regression analyses revealed that host species, host gender, month, and year were significant explanatory variables related to gregarine prevalence and intensity. Abundant information on odonate distributions, diversity, and mating activities makes dragonfly-gregarine systems excellent avenues for ecological, evolutionary, and parasitological research. Our results emphasize the importance of considering season, hosts, and habitat when studying gregarine-dragonfly ecology.