Beta diversity of gastrointestinal helminths in two closely related South African rodents: species and site contributions

Andrea Spickett, Luther van der Mescht, Kerstin Junker, Boris R. Krasnov, Voitto Haukisalmi, Sonja Matthee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


A fundamental aim of parasite ecology is to understand the mechanisms behind spatial variation in diversity and structure of parasite assemblages. To understand the contribution of individual parasite species and their assemblages to spatial variation in parasite communities, we examined species contributions to beta diversity (SCBD) and local contributions to beta diversity (LCBD) of parasitic gastrointestinal helminths (nematodes and cestodes) in two closely related rodents, Rhabdomys dilectus and Rhabdomys pumilio, from 20 localities across South Africa. Although the two Rhabdomys spp. are morphologically similar, they differ substantially in body size, habitat preference, and sociality. We asked whether the variation in life history traits and infection parameters are associated with SCBD of helminths and whether variation in environmental factors, host population density, and species richness of host communities are associated with LCBD of component assemblages of helminths. We also considered spatial factors to test whether LCBD of helminth assemblages demonstrate geographic structure. We found that the contribution of helminth species parasitic in both hosts to beta diversity significantly increased with characteristic prevalence of these species, whereas mean abundance, type of life cycle, and location in the host’s gut had no effect on SCBD. The LCBD of helminth assemblages showed a significant positive correlation with environmental factors in both host species. Our results suggest that predictors of variation in SCBD and LCBD may substantially differ between parasites with different infection parameters and/or parasite communities at different hierarchical scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2863-2875
Number of pages13
JournalParasitology Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Beta diversity
  • Environment
  • Gastrointestinal helminths
  • LCBD
  • Rhabdomys
  • SCBD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • General Veterinary
  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases


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