Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 5, Issue 8, pp 985-997

First online:

Helminth parasite richness among vertebrates

  • R. D. GregoryAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Oxford
  • , A. E. KeymerAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Oxford
  • , P. H. HarveyAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Oxford

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The numbers of intestinal helminth species (parasite richnesS) recorded from each of 488 vertebrate host species are compared using data compiled from the published literature. Associations between parasite richness, sampling effort, host size and host habitat (aquatic versus terrestrial) are assessed using a method designed to control for phylogenetic association. Parasite richness increases with the number of surveys on which each estimate of parasite richness is based (sampling effort). When the effects of sampling effort are controlled for, there remains a strong positive relationship between parasite richness and host body size. There is no tendency for aquatic hosts to harbour more parasite species than terrestrial hosts independently of differences in sampling effort and body size. The results are interpreted in the context of hosts representing habitats for parasite colonization, resource allocation between parasite species, and the age of the major mammalian radiations.


Helminths vertebrates parasite richness sampling effort comparative method