Searching for generality in the patterns of parasite abundance and distribution: Ectoparasites of a South African rodent, Rhabdomys pumilio
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We studied abundance and distribution of seven ectoparasite species (fleas Chiastopsylla rossi and Dynopsyllus ellobius, a louse Polyplax arvicanthis, mites Androlaelaps fahrenholzi and Laelaps giganteus and two ticks Haemaphysalis elliptica and Hyalomma truncatum) exploiting the same populations of the rodent host Rhabdomys pumilio in South Africa. We considered three general patterns of abundance and distribution, namely (i) aggregated distribution of parasites amongst individual hosts; (ii) positive relationships between mean parasite abundance and their prevalence; and (iii) applicability of a simple epidemiological model based on mean parasite abundance and its variance to predict the observed patterns of prevalence. Our aims were to evaluate the relative role of host- versus parasite-associated factors by looking at similarity amongst different parasites in these patterns. In general, all parasites demonstrated strong similarity in each of the three patterns of abundance and distribution. However, the strength of these patterns differed amongst parasite species. We conclude that these patterns are driven mainly by hosts, but differences are caused by differences between various life-history traits of parasite species. Our results support the idea that general laws apply to parasite population ecology.