Stability in abundance and niche breadth of gamasid mites across environmental conditions, parasite identity and host pools Academic Article uri icon


  • There is substantial variability among populations of the same species in basic features such as abundance or niche breadth, and it is unclear to what extent these are true species traits as opposed to the product of local environmental factors. In parasites, abundance and niche breadth, i.e. host specificity, show repeatability among different populations of the same species, but may also be influenced by external forces, depending on the parasite taxa studied. We tested whether the abundance and host specificity of gamasid mites parasitic on small mammals from 26 different geographic regions of the Palaearctic, are species-specific or instead determined by host identity and/or parameters of the biotic and abiotic environment. Values of abundance and host specificity (measured as the number of host species used) were significantly more similar among populations of the same mite species than among different mite species; despite also showing consistency within particular host species or regions independently of mite species identity, both abundance and the number of host species used appear to be true mite species traits. In contrast, the taxonomic distinctness of host species used by a mite showed little repeatability among populations of the same mite species, and appears mostly determined by the local pool of available host species. Within given mite species, all three variables (abundance, number of host species used, and their taxonomic distinctness) covaried to some extent with one or more environmental factors (e.g., nature of the local host assemblage, temperature, precipitation) across geographical regions, but there was no universal pattern among results from different mite species. These results are similar to those obtained earlier on other taxa, e.g. fleas, and suggest that there are general laws acting on spatial patterns of parasite abundance and host specificity.

publication date

  • November 27, 2007