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Data from: Prevalence and beta diversity in avian malaria communities: host species is a better predictor than geography

Cite this dataset

Scordato, Elizabeth S. C.; Kardish, Melissa R. (2014). Data from: Prevalence and beta diversity in avian malaria communities: host species is a better predictor than geography [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Patterns of diversity and turnover in macroorganism communities can often be predicted from differences in habitat, phylogenetic relationships among species, and the geographic scale of comparisons. In this study, we asked if these factors also predict diversity and turnover in parasite communities. 2. We studied communities of avian malaria in two sympatric, ecologically similar, congeneric host species at three different sites. We asked if parasite prevalence and community structure varied with host population, host phylogeography, or geographic distance. 3. We used PCR to screen birds for infections, and then used Bayesian methods to determine phylogenetic relationships among malaria strains. Metrics of both community and phylogenetic beta diversity were used to examine patterns of malaria strain turnover between host populations, and partial Mantel tests were used determine the correlation between malaria beta diversity and geographic distance. Finally, we developed microsatellite markers to describe the genetic structure of host populations and assess the relationship between host phylogeography and parasite beta diversity. 4. We found that although some malaria lineages occur in both host species, different genera of malaria parasites infect the two hosts at different rates. Additionally, host species was a better predictor of parasite community similarity than study site. Within hosts, parasite communities in one population were phylogenetically clustered, but there was otherwise no correlation between metrics of parasite beta diversity and geographic or genetic distance between host populations. Patterns of parasite turnover among host populations are consistent with malaria transmission occurring in the winter rather than on the breeding grounds 5. Our results indicate greater turnover in parasite communities between different hosts than between different sites. Differences in host species, as well as transmission location and vector ecology, seem to be more important in structuring malaria communities than the distance-decay relationships frequently found in macroorganisms. Determining the factors affecting parasite community diversity and turnover has wide-ranging implications for understanding the selective pressures shaping host ecology and ecosystem structure. This study shows that metrics of community and phylogenetic beta diversity can be useful tools for disentangling the ecological and evolutionary processes that underlie geographical variation in parasite communities.

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