Scale-dependent effects of geography, host ecology, and host genetics, on species composition and co-occurrence in a stickleback parasite metacommunity


A core goal of ecology is to understand the abiotic and biotic variables that regulate species distributions and community composition. A major obstacle is that the rules governing species distribution can change with spatial scale. Here, we illustrate this point using data from a spatially nested metacommunity of parasites infecting a metapopulation of threespine stickleback fish from 34 lakes on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Parasite communities differ among host individuals within each host population and between host populations. The distribution of each parasite taxon depends, to varying degrees, on individual host traits (e.g., mass, diet) and on host population characteristics (e.g., lake size, mean diet). However, in most cases, a given parasite was regulated by different factors at the host-individual and host-population scales, contributing to scale-dependent patterns of parasite-species co-occurrence.

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