Avian lice occupy different habitats in the host plumage that the physical environment outside the host body may affect in several ways. Interactions between host plumage and water may be an important source of such effects. Here, we use a comparative approach to examine the effect of a host's diving behavior on the taxonomic richness of its lice. Louse genera richness was significantly lower in clades of diving birds than on their nondiving sister clades. Species richness of host and body mass did not differ significantly between these clades; thus, these factors did not bias our results. This study suggests that the hosts' diving behavior can effectively influence ectoparasite communities.
American Society of Parasitologists