Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Host and parasite traits predict cross-species parasite acquisition by introduced mammals.

Abstract

Species invasions and range shifts can lead to novel host-parasite communities, but we lack general rules on which new associations are likely to form. While many studies examine parasite sharing among host species, the directionality of transmission is typically overlooked, impeding our ability to derive principles of parasite acquisition. Consequently, we analysed parasite records from the non-native ranges of 11 carnivore and ungulate species. Using boosted regression trees, we modelled parasite acquisition within each zoogeographic realm of a focal host's non-native range, using a suite of predictors characterizing the parasites themselves and the host community in which they live. We found that higher parasite prevalence among established hosts increases the likelihood of acquisition, particularly for generalist parasites. Non-native host species are also more likely to acquire parasites from established host species to which they are closely related; however, the acquisition of several parasite groups is biased to phylogenetically specialist parasites, indicating potential costs of parasite generalism. Statistical models incorporating these features provide an accurate prediction of parasite acquisition, indicating that measurable host and parasite traits can be used to estimate the likelihood of new host-parasite associations forming. This work provides general rules to help anticipate novel host-parasite associations created by climate change and other anthropogenic influences.