Host and Parasites as Model Systems
Noctilio leporinus with a streblid bat fly on top of it's head

Host-parasite systems are excellent models to explore questions about factors that affect populuation, community and metacommunity structure within the context of evolutionary and ecological mechanisms. Data derived from host-parasite systems may powerfully address ecological questions because they provide a great number of replicates in conjunction with great variation in host or parasite characteristics, which can be used to explore predictions of contemporary (e.g., nestedness, Neutral Theory) and traditional (e.g., Island Biogeography, More Individuals Hypothesis, species-area relationships) ecological and evolutionary theories. Traditionally, these systems have been under-utilized; however, the amount of published research using host-parasite data is increasing quickly. In part, because these systems provide a great deal of flexibility, but also because data can be collected in conjunction with other projects and a great amount of data can be collected quickly and inexpensively.

We have used bats and their ectoparasites to address questions related to interspecific co-occurrence and nestedness of infracommunities (Presley 2007), effects of host characteristics such as sex and body size on the abundance of populations (Presley and Willig 2008), the relative importance of hosts as habitats for ectoparasites and interspecific interactions of ectoparasites in structuring assemblages (Presley 2011), and the potential for intraspecific competition between the sexes of ectoparasites to structure populations, including the potential for sexual segregation, sex-based niche partitioning, intrasexual selection, pre-partum sex bias, local mate competition, mortality from host grooming, and sex-specific behaviour related to reproduction to structure populations (Presley 2011).

More recently, in collaboration with Tad Dallas from the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia, we use a metacommunity approach to understand the effects of host characteristics (e.g. body mass, home range size, reproductive rate, phylogeny, metabolic rate) on the distributions of parasites (ecotoparasites, coccidians, and helminths) among species of desert rodents at the Sevilleta LTER site (Dallas and Presley 2014).

Currently, we are developing an approach which considers parasites to be traits of hosts to evaluate phylogenetic signals in host-parasite associations.


Collaborators on Host-Parasite Research

Lab Members   Other Collaborators
  • Brian T. Klingbeil
  • Steven J. Presley
  • Michael R. Willig
  • Tad Dallas
  • Related Publications

    Presley, S. J.  2005.  Ectoparasitic assemblages of Paraguayan bats: ecological and evolutionary perspectives.  Mastozoología Neotropical 12:103-105.

    Presley, S. J.  2007.  Streblid bat-fly assemblage structure on Noctilio leporinus (Chiroptera: Noctilionidae): nestedness and species co-occurrence.  Journal of Tropical Ecology 23:409-417.

    Presley, S. J., and M. R. Willig.  2008. Intraspecific patterns of ectoparasite abundances on Paraguayan bats: effects of host sex and body size.  Journal of Tropical Ecology 24:75-83.

    Presley, S. J. 2011. Interspecific aggregation of ectoparasites on bats: importance of hosts as habitats supersedes interspecific interactions. Oikos 120: 832-841.

    Presley, S. J. 2012. Sex-based population structure of ectoparasites from Neotropical bats. 2012. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 107:56-66

    Dallas, T., and S.J. Presley. 2014. Relative importance of host environment, transmission potential, and host phylogeny to the structure of parasite metacommunities. Oikos doi: 123: 866-874.

    Presley, S.J., T. Dallas, B.T. Klingbeil, and M.R. Willig. Phylogenetic signals in host-parasite associations for Neotropical bats and Nearctic desert rodents. Journal of Animal Ecology (Submitted).

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