Abstract

Parasites are incredibly diverse. An important factor in the evolution of this diversity is the fact that many parasite species are restricted to 1, or just a few, host species. In addition, some parasites exhibit geographic specificity that is nested within their specificity to a particular species of host. The environmental factors that restrict parasites to particular regions within the host's range are poorly understood, and it is often difficult to know whether such patterns of geographic specificity are real, or merely artifacts of uneven host sampling. For over a decade, we sampled communities of ectoparasitic lice (Phthiraptera) from western scrub-jays (Aphelocoma californica) throughout their range in the United States, and found 3 common species of lice. Philopterus crassipes was found throughout the host range, whereas the other 2 species of lice had more restricted distributions. Brueelia deficiens was found only on the woodhouseii host subspecies group, and Myrsidea sp. was found largely on the californica host subspecies group. We suggest that differential tolerance to arid conditions and interspecific competition has led to the restricted geographic distributions of these 2 species of lice.

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