Host diversity drives parasite diversity: meta-analytical insights into patterns and causal mechanisms

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Statistical correlations of biodiversity patterns across multiple trophic levels have received considerable attention in various types of interacting assemblages, forging a universal understanding of patterns and processes in free-living communities. Host–parasite interactions present an ideal model system for studying congruence of species richness among taxa as obligate parasites are strongly dependent upon the availability of their hosts for survival and reproduction while also having a tight coevolutionary relationship with their hosts. The present meta-analysis examined 38 case studies on the relationship between species richness of hosts and parasites, and is the first attempt to provide insights into the patterns and causal mechanisms of parasite biodiversity at the community level using meta-regression models. We tested the distinct role of resource (i.e. host) availability and evolutionary co-variation on the association between biodiversity of hosts and parasites, while spatial scale of studies was expected to influence the extent of this association. Our results demonstrate that species richness of parasites is tightly correlated with that of their hosts with a strong average effect size (r= 0.55) through both host availability and evolutionary co-variation. However, we found no effect of the spatial scale of studies, nor of any of the other predictor variables considered, on the correlation. Our findings highlight the tight ecological and evolutionary association between host and parasite species richness and reinforce the fact that host–parasite interactions provide an ideal system to explore congruence of biodiversity patterns across multiple trophic levels.

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