The study of helminth communities is a very recent development in the field of parasite ecology. Holmes (1973) in a seminal paper discussed site selection, site segregation between species, interspecific interactions and the importance of these processes to the development of helminth parasite communities. The subject developed from this point, stimulated by the publications of Price (1980) and publications by Holmes and his co-workers, for example Bush & Holmes (1986a, b), and by the development of mathematical models by Dobson (1985, 1990), Dobson & Roberts (1994) and Dobson & Keymer (1985). The volume by Esch et al. (1990) presented in a series of papers the most up-to-date review of parasite community ecology at that time. Since then there have been a series of important contributions from Combes (2001) and Poulin (1998), as well as numerous individual publications by these authors and others such as Bush, Guégan and Kennedy. Acanthocephalans have been included in most of these studies, but generally only as a part of them. Communities comprising only acanthocephalans do occur, but rarely. It is therefore virtually impossible to study the community dynamics of acanthocephalans in isolation in a way that it is possible to study the population dynamics of a species, as the acanthocephalans almost invariably form only a part of any helminth community.
This increase in interest in helminth communities in many respects parallels the recent increase in interest in communty dynamics of free-living organisms.