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Are All Hosts Created Equal? Partitioning Host Species Contributions to Parasite Persistence in Multihost Communities

Andy Fenton, Daniel G. Streicker, Owen L. Petchey and Amy B. Pedersen
The American Naturalist
Vol. 186, No. 5 (November 2015), pp. 610-622
DOI: 10.1086/683173
Stable URL:
Page Count: 13
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AbstractMany parasites circulate endemically within communities of multiple host species. To understand disease persistence within these communities, it is essential to know the contribution each host species makes to parasite transmission and maintenance. However, quantifying those contributions is challenging. We present a conceptual framework for classifying multihost sharing, based on key thresholds for parasite persistence. We then develop a generalized technique to quantify each species’ contribution to parasite persistence, allowing natural systems to be located within the framework. We illustrate this approach using data on gastrointestinal parasites circulating within rodent communities and show that, although many parasites infect several host species, parasite persistence is often driven by just one host species. In some cases, however, parasites require multiple host species for maintenance. Our approach provides a quantitative method for differentiating these cases using minimal reliance on system-specific parameters, enabling informed decisions about parasite management within poorly understood multihost communities.

Notes and References

This item contains 46 references.

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