Trait-based and phylogenetic associations between parasites and their hosts: a case study with small mammals and fleas in the Palearctic Academic Article uri icon


  • We investigated the associations between ecological (density, shelter structure), morphological (body mass, hair morphology) and physiological traits (basal metabolic rate) of small mammals and ecological (seasonality of reproduction, microhabitat preferences, abundance, host specificity) and morphological (presence and number of combs) traits of their flea parasites that shape host selection processes by fleas. We adapted the extended version of the threeÔÇÉtable ordination and linked species composition of flea assemblages of host species with traits and phylogenies of both hosts and fleas. Fleas with similar trait values, independent of phylogenetic affinities, were clustered on the same host species. Fleas possessing certain traits selected hosts possessing certain traits. Fleas belonging to the same phylogenetic lineage were found on the same host more often than expected by chance. Certain phylogenetic lineages of hosts harbored certain phylogenetic lineages of fleas. The process of host selection by fleas appeared to be determined by reciprocal relationships between host and flea traits, as well as between host and flea phylogenies. We concluded that the connection between host and flea phylogenies, coupled with the connection between host and flea traits, suggests that the species compositions of the host spectra of fleas were driven by the interaction between historical processes and traits.

publication date

  • January 1, 2016

published in