The relationship between species richness and productivity in metazoan parasite communities
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Biodiversity is not distributed homogeneously in space, and it often covaries with productivity. The shape of the relationship between diversity and productivity, however, varies from a monotonic linear increase to a hump-shaped curve with maximum diversity values corresponding to intermediate productivity. The system studied and the spatial scale of study may affect this relationship. Parasite communities are useful models to test the productivity-diversity relationship because they consist of species belonging to a restricted set of higher taxa common to all host species. Using total parasite biovolume per host individual as a surrogate for community productivity, we tested the relationship between productivity and species richness among assemblages of metazoan parasites in 131 vertebrate host species. Across all host species, we found a linear relationship between total parasite biovolume and parasite species richness, with no trace of a hump-shaped curve. This result remained after corrections for the potential confounding effect of the number of host individuals examined perhost species, host body mass, and phylogenetic relation-ships among host species. Although weaker, the linear relationship remained when the analyses were performed within the five vertebrate groups (fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds) instead of across all host species. These findings agree with the classic isolationist-interactive continuum of parasite communities that has become widely accepted in parasite ecology. They also suggest that parasite communities are not saturated with species, and that the addition of new species will result in increased total parasite biovolume per host. If the number of parasite species exploiting a host population is not regulated by processes arising from within the parasite community, external factors such as host characteristics may be the main determinants of parasite diversity.