An assemblage of species in a locality comprises two components, namely (i) species that are present (realised diversity) and (ii) species from the regional pool that may potentially inhabit this locality due to suitable ecological conditions, but that are absent (dark diversity). We investigated factors affecting the dark diversity of component communities of fleas parasitic on small mammals in the northern Palearctic at two scales. First, we considered the dark diversity of flea assemblages of the same host (for 13 host species) across regions and tested for the effects of environmental factors and the number of available host species on the dark diversity of within-region flea assemblages. Second, we considered the dark diversity of fleas across host species within a region (for 20 regions) and asked whether within-host dark diversity is associated with host phylogeny and/or traits. We found that the dark diversity of flea assemblages harboured by small mammals varied substantially (i) within the same host species across space (in 12 of 13 host species) and (ii) between host species within a region (in eight of 20 regions). The size of the dark diversity of flea assemblages of the same host across regions was generally affected by environmental factors (mainly by the amount of green vegetation), whereas the size of the dark diversity of flea assemblages of a host species within a region was affected by host traits (mainly by the degree of host sociality and the structure of its shelter and, to a lesser degree, by its geographic range size) but was not associated with host phylogenetic affinities. We conclude that application of the dark diversity concept to parasite communities across space or hosts allows a better understanding of the factors affecting the species richness and composition of these communities.
- Dark diversity