Host and parasite recruitment correlated at a regional scale
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- Byers, J.E., Rogers, T.L., Grabowski, J.H. et al. Oecologia (2014) 174: 731. doi:10.1007/s00442-013-2809-2
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Drivers of large-scale variability in parasite prevalence are not well understood. For logistical reasons, explorations of spatial patterns in parasites are often performed as observational studies. However, to understand the mechanisms that underlie these spatial patterns, standardized and controlled comparisons are needed. Here, we examined spatial variability in infection of an important fishery species and ecosystem engineer, the oyster (Crassostrea virginica) by its pea crab parasite (Zaops ostreus) across 700 km of the southeastern USA coastline. To minimize the influence of host genetics on infection patterns, we obtained juvenile oysters from a homogeneous source stock and raised them in situ for 3 months at multiple sites with similar environmental characteristics. We found that prevalence of pea crab infection varied between 24 and 73 % across sites, but not systematically across latitude. Of all measured environmental variables, oyster recruitment correlated most strongly (and positively) with pea crab infection, explaining 92 % of the variability in infection across sites. Our data ostensibly suggest that regional processes driving variation in oyster recruitment similarly affect the recruitment of one of its common parasites.