Nested subsets occur in ecological communities when species-poor communities are subsets of larger, species-rich communities. Understanding this pattern can help elucidate species colonization abilities, extinction risks, and general structuring of biological communities. Here, we evaluate nestedness in a poorly studied host–parasite system, bats and their helminths, across the Japanese archipelago and within its different bioclimatic regions. We hypothesized that (1) if helminth communities are nested across geographic sites at the level of the archipelago, then broad-scale processes, like colonization-extinction dynamics, mainly structure parasite assemblages; (2) if helminth communities are nested across geographic sites at the level of the bioclimatic region, then fine-scale environmental variation plays a significant role in species nestedness; (3) if helminth community nestedness mirrors host species nestedness, then communities are nested because the habitats they occupy are nested; and (4) if nestedness does not occur or if it is not correlated with any geographical or host data, then passive sampling could be responsible for the patterns of parasite assemblage in our sample. We found that helminth communities were nested across host species throughout the archipelago but, when considering each bioclimatic region, helminths in only one region were significantly more nested than the null model. Helminth communities were also nested across sites within all four bioclimatic regions. These results suggest that helminths form nested subsets across the archipelago due to broad-scale processes that reflect the overall lineages of their mammalian hosts; however, at the regional scale, environmental processes related to nestedness of their habitats drive parasite community nestedness.
- Community structure