, Volume 138, Issue 4, pp 648-654
Date: 09 Jan 2004

Causal mechanisms underlying host specificity in bat ectoparasites

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In parasites, host specificity may result either from restricted dispersal capacity or from fixed coevolutionary host-parasite adaptations. Knowledge of those proximal mechanisms leading to particular host specificity is fundamental to understand host-parasite interactions and potential coevolution of parasites and hosts. The relative importance of these two mechanisms was quantified through infection and cross-infection experiments using mites and bats as a model. Monospecific pools of parasitic mites (Spinturnix myoti and S. andegavinus) were subjected either to individual bats belonging to their traditional, native bat host species, or to another substitute host species within the same bat genus (Myotis). The two parasite species reacted differently to these treatments. S. myoti exhibited a clear preference for, and had a higher fitness on, its native host, Myotis myotis. In contrast, S. andegavinus showed no host choice, although its fitness was higher on its native host M. daubentoni. The causal mechanisms mediating host specificity can apparently differ within closely related host-parasite systems.