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Parasite sharing in wild ungulates and their predators: Effects of phylogeny, range overlap, and trophic links

Stephens, Patrick R., Altizer, Sonia, Ezenwa, Vanessa O., Gittleman, John L., Moan, Emili, Han, Barbara, Huang, Shan, Pappalardo, Paula
The journal of animal ecology 2019 v.88 no.7 pp. 1017-1028
Artiodactyla, Perissodactyla, carnivores, disease transmission, ecological competition, genetic distance, helminths, hosts, human health, models, phylogeny, predation, predators, ungulates
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 phylogenetic similarity predicted greater parasite community similarity in ungulates. Ecological dissimilarity showed a weak negative relationship with parasite sharing. Counter to our expectations, differences, not similarity, in host body mass predicted greater parasite sharing between pairs of ungulate hosts. Pairs of well‐studied host species showed higher overlap than poorly studied species, although including sampling effort did not reduce the importance of biological traits in our models. Finally, carnivores that feed on ungulates harboured a greater richness of ungulate helminths. 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.