Author(s): Poulin R
Abstract Share this page
Abstract Within any parasite species, variation among populations in standard infection parameters (prevalence, intensity and abundance) is an accepted fact. The proportion of hosts infected and the mean number of parasites per host are not fixed values across the entire geographic range of any parasite species. The question is whether this inter-population variation occurs within a narrow, species-specific range and is thus driven mainly by the biological features of the parasite, or whether it is substantial and unpredictable, leaving population parameters at the mercy of local conditions. Here, the repeatability of estimates of prevalence, intensity and abundance of infection was assessed across populations of the same parasite species, for 77 metazoan parasite species of Canadian freshwater fishes. Overall, parameter values from different populations of the same parasite species were more similar to each other and more different from those of other species, than expected by chance alone. Much of the variation in parameter values in the dataset was associated with differences between parasite species, rather than with differences among populations within species. This was particularly true for intensity and abundance of infection; in contrast, prevalence values, while somewhat repeatable among populations of the same species, still showed considerable variation. Among the higher taxa investigated (monogeneans, trematodes, cestodes, nematodes, acanthocephalans, copepods), there was no evidence that species of one taxon display intrinsically greater variation in population parameters than species of other taxa. Overall, the results suggest that intensity and abundance of infection are real species characters, though somewhat variable. This conclusion supports the view that the biological features of parasite species can potentially override local environmental conditions in driving parasite population dynamics.
This article was published in Int J Parasitol
and referenced in Journal of Coastal Zone Management