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Reciprocal specialization in multihost malaria parasite communities of birds: a temperate-tropical comparison

  • Maria Svensson-Coelho
  • Vincenzo A Ellis
  • Bette A. Loiselle
  • John G. Blake
  • Robert E Ricklefs
Publishing year: 2014
Language: English
Pages: 624-635
Publication/Series: American Naturalist
Volume: 184
Issue: 5
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract english

How specialization of consumers with respect to resources varies with respect to latitude is poorly understood. Coexistence of many species in the tropics might be possible only if specialization also increases. Alternatively, lower average abundance of more diverse biotic resources in the tropics might force consumers to become more generalized foragers. We examine levels of reciprocal specialization in an antagonistic system—avian malaria—to determine whether the number of host species used and/or parasite lineages harbored differ between a temperate and a tropical assemblage. We evaluate the results of network analysis, which can incorporate both bird and parasite perspectives on specialization in one quantitative index, in comparison to null models. Specialization was significantly greater in both sample sites than predicted from null models. We found evidence for lower per-host species parasite diversity in temperate compared to tropical birds. However, specialization did not differ between the tropical and temperate sites from the parasite perspective. We supplemented the network analysis with estimates of specialization that incorporate phylogenetic relationships of associates and found no differences between sites. Thus, our analyses indicate that specialization within an antagonistic host-parasite (resource-consumer) system varies little between tropical and temperate localities.


  • Zoology
  • Ecology
  • antagonistic interactions
  • coevolution
  • community ecology
  • Haemosporida
  • latitudinal gradient


  • ISSN: 0003-0147
Vincenzo Ellis
E-mail: vincenzo [dot] alexander_ellis [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

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