, Volume 146, Issue 2, pp 269–278

Parasite species coexistence and limiting similarity: a multiscale look at phylogenetic, functional and reproductive distances


    • UMR CNRS-UMII 5119 Ecosystêmes LagunairesUniversité Montpellier II
  • Andrea Šimková
    • Department of Zoology and Ecology, Faculty of ScienceMasaryk University
  • Serge Morand
    • Centre de Biologie et de Gestion des Populations (CBGP)UMR Agro.M-CIRAD-IRD-INRA
  • Robert Poulin
    • Department of ZoologyUniversity of Otago
Community Ecology

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-005-0194-1

Cite this article as:
Mouillot, D., Šimková, A., Morand, S. et al. Oecologia (2005) 146: 269. doi:10.1007/s00442-005-0194-1


The factors that control biodiversity have been the focus of numerous recent investigations; these include species interactions, speciation, environmental gradients and heterogeneity, all of these operating differently at each observation scale. We used a null model to examine the influence of two forces shaping the community structure of Dactylogyrus species parasitic on roach (Rutilus rutilus) gills: interspecific competition that might prevent the coexistence of the most similar species and environmental filters that might result in the most similar species coexisting together. The study was carried out on two sets of fish from two different localities in the Morava river basin (Czech Republic) to evaluate the consistency of the results across host populations, and at three different scales of observation to test for the scale dependence of assembly rules. In decreasing order, from largest to smallest, the three spatial scales investigated were: the individual fish, the individual gill arch and individual sections of each gill arch. The similarity between pairs of parasite species was measured using three different criteria: (1) phylogeny, (2) quantitative functional traits consisting of parasite size and morphometric measurements of the attachment organ’s sclerotized parts and (3) qualitative attributes of reproductive organs. First, our study reveals a strong conservatism of ecological characters for the nine Dactylogyrus parasite species, in particular regarding the attributes of their copulatory organs. Second, our study did not find any limitation of similarity among coexisting Dactylogyrus species due to interspecific competition, irrespective of the scale and the similarity measures considered. Conversely, our results support the niche filtering hypothesis, preventing the co-occurrence of species too dissimilar from one another. This process is particularly apparent at the scale of the individual fish and for functional traits associated with the hard parts of the parasites’ attachment organs. In both localities, the Dactylogyrus species that occur on the same fish individuals tend to have similar values for the haptor dimensions. Our study supports previous studies on monogenean parasite communities indicating a weak influence of competition as a structuring force, but it goes a step further by identifying environmental filtering as a key process shaping these communities.


Assembly rulesNiche conservatismDactylogyrus speciesMorava river basin

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© Springer-Verlag 2005