Sunfish (Lepomis spp.) are among the most common piscine inhabitants of freshwater lakes and ponds in North America. Lepomis spp. breed at the same time creating hybrid zones, where genetically distinct populations mate and produce mixed offspring that are sexually viable hybrids. One aspect of hybridization that may have important consequences is parasitism and its patterns of recruitment in the hybrid sunfish. This study investigated these patterns both at the level of the individual parasite species as well as in the parasite communities infecting the fish. Two sample sites possessing hybrid sunfish populations were investigated: 1 system had bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus), redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus), and their hybrids, while the other system had bluegill sunfish (L. macrochirus), green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), and their hybrids. The hybrids were infected by mostly generalist parasites that commonly infect all Lepomis spp. Most of the individual parasite species followed a dominance pattern (59.1%) of infection, where parasite abundance in hybrids resembled at least one of the parental species, with the remainder exhibiting intermediate levels of parasitism, supporting an additive pattern of parasite recruitment (40.1%). At the community level, the patterns of parasite recruitment differed in L. macrochirus × L. microlophus hybrids, which showed a dominance pattern, and L. macrochirus × L. cyanellus hybrids, which showed an additive pattern of parasite recruitment. These differences in parasite recruitment between hybrid groups may be attributed to varying degrees of dietary and niche overlap between the parental species in the 2 study systems.

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