J Anim Ecol 2019 Apr 19. Epub 2019 Apr 19.
Department of Coastal Systems, NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Utrecht University, Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands.
Identifying the factors shaping variation in parasite diversity among host species is crucial to understand wildlife diseases. Although micro- and macroparasites may exert different selective pressures on their hosts, studies investigating the determinants of parasite species richness in animals have rarely considered this divide. Here, we investigated the role of host life history and ecology in explaining the species richness of helminths (macroparasites) and haemosporidians (microparasites) in birds world-wide. We collated data from multiple global datasets on diverse bird traits (longevity, body mass, coloniality, migration distance/tendency, geographic range size and dietary and habitat breadths) and the species richness of their helminth and haemosporidian parasites. We tested predictors of helminth and haemosporidian parasite richness using phylogenetic generalized linear mixed models in a Bayesian framework. We found that, after controlling for research effort and host phylogeny, the richness of helminths, but not of haemosporidians, increased with host longevity, range size, migration distance and dietary breadth. Overall, these correlates were also important across different helminth groups (acanthocephalans, cestodes, nematodes and trematodes), and two additional ones (body mass, coloniality) emerged as important for cestodes and acanthocephalans. We propose that long life spans may promote the diversity of helminth parasite assemblages over evolutionary time, thus resulting in richer helminth faunas. Similarly, longer-distance migrations, larger ranges and broader dietary breadths are likely to lead to greater encounter rates and the accumulation of trophically transmitted helminths. In contrast, vector-borne haemosporidians may be influenced more by factors related to vector ecology than by the host traits included in the analyses. The lack of strong associations between haemosporidian species richness and host characteristics emphasizes the need to find appropriate traits to model the distribution and diversity of parasites with different environmental preferences in order to anticipate disease emergence risks associated with global change.