Network position of hosts in food webs and their parasite diversity

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Abstract

Parasites are ubiquitous in ecological communities but it is only recently that they have been routinely included in food web studies. Using recently published data and the tool of network analysis, we elucidate features associated with the pattern of parasitism in ecological communities. First we show here that parasitism is non-random in food webs. Second we demonstrate that parasite diversity, the number of parasite species harboured by a host species, is related to the network position of a host species. Specifically, a host species with high parasite diversity tends to have a wide diet range, occupy a network position close to many prey species, or occupy a network position that can better accumulate resources from species at lower trophic levels. Lastly our results also suggest that a host species with higher vulnerability to predators, being at a network position close to many predatory species, or being involved in many different food chains, tends to be important in parasite transmission.

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