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Data from: The scaling of parasite biomass with host biomass in lake ecosystems: are parasites limited by host resources?


Lagrue, Clément; Poulin, Robert (2015), Data from: The scaling of parasite biomass with host biomass in lake ecosystems: are parasites limited by host resources?, Dryad, Dataset,


The standing crop biomass of different populations or trophic levels reflects patterns of energy flow through an ecosystem. The contribution of parasites to total biomass is often considered negligible; recent evidence suggests otherwise, although it comes from a narrow range of natural systems. Quantifying how local parasite biomass, whether that of a single species or an assemblage of species sharing the same host, varies across localities with host population biomass, is critical to determine what constrains parasite populations. We use an extensive dataset on all free-living and parasitic metazoan species from multiple sites in New Zealand lakes to measure parasite biomass and test how it covaries with host biomass. In all lakes, trematodes had the highest combined biomass among parasite taxa, ranging from about 0.01 to 0.25 g m−2, surpassing the biomass of minor free-living taxa. Unlike findings from other studies, the life stage contributing the most to total trematode biomass was the metacercarial stage in the second intermediate host, and not sporocysts or rediae within snail first intermediate hosts, possibly due to low prevalence and small snail sizes. For populations of single parasite species, we found no relationship between host and parasite biomass for either juvenile or adult nematodes. In contrast, all life stages of trematodes had local biomasses that correlated positively with those of their hosts. For assemblages of parasite species sharing the same host, we found strong relationships between local host population biomass and the total biomass of parasites supported. In these host–parasite biomass relationships, the scaling factor (slope in log-log space) suggests that parasites may not be making full use of available host resources. Host populations appear capable of supporting a little more parasite biomass, and may be open to expansion of existing parasites or invasion by new ones.

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New Zealand