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Parasite communities of frogs: relationships to landscape and habitat features.
SCHOTTHOEFER, ANNA1, COLE, REBECCA2, JOHNSON, LUCINDA3, JOHNSON, CATHERINE3, BEASLEY, VAL1, 1 2 3
ABSTRACT- Because parasites potentially regulate host population dynamics, relating their variation in abundance to landscape and habitat features might be important for wildlife conservation. Management could be targeted to locations where disease is not expected to be a problem, or in areas where it should be expected. Understanding the factors contributing to the distribution of parasites infecting frogs is of particular interest, given evidence that infections with a larval trematode are at least partially responsible for outbreaks of malformations in frog populations across North America. Determinants of parasite community structure in populations of Rana pipiens were investigated at 26 ponds in Minnesota. The parasite fauna recovered from 276 juvenile frogs was diverse, consisting of 26 taxa, including 9 larval trematodes, 4 adult trematodes, 5 nematodes, and 5 protozoan blood parasites. Parasite richness across sites ranged between 4 and 16 taxa. Larval trematodes were the most abundant parasites, comprising 97% of all individual parasites collected. Larval trematodes that mature in birds were more likely to be found at ponds where larval trematodes that mature in mammals also were found, suggesting ponds that are frequented by mammals are also commonly visited by birds. In general, wetland size, percent of emergent wetland vegetation, and percent of open water were poor predictors of parasite occurrence. In ongoing analyses, the potential roles of landscape factors in determining the structure of these parasite communities is examined.
KEY WORDS: Rana pipiens, parasite communities, landscape ecology