Relationship between host abundance and parasite distribution: inferring regulating mechanisms from census data Academic Article uri icon


  • 1. We studied the effect of host abundance on parasite abundance and prevalence using data on 57 associations of fleas (Siphonaptera) and their mammalian hosts from Slovakia. 2. We assumed that flea-induced host mortality could be inferred from the relationship between flea aggregation and flea abundance, whereas host-induced flea mortality could be inferred from the relationship between flea abundance or aggregation and host abundance. 3. Relationships between flea abundance or prevalence and host abundance were either negative (in 23 flea-host associations) or absent (in 34 flea-host associations). Negative relationships between flea abundance and host abundance were always accompanied by negative relationships between flea prevalence and host abundance. 4. The link between flea abundance/prevalence and host abundance was evaluated as the coefficient of determination of the respective regressions. Across flea-host associations, this link decreased with an increase in the degree of flea aggregation (measured as a parameter b of Taylor's power law). 5. Mean crowding of fleas decreased with an increase of host abundance in eight flea-host associations, being asymptotic in four of them. On the other hand, mean crowding of fleas increased with an increase in flea abundance in 49 flea-host associations, being asymptotic in 15 of them. 6. Results of this study suggest that different flea-host associations are governed by different regulating mechanisms, but different regulation mechanisms may act simultaneously within the same flea-host associations.

publication date

  • January 1, 2006