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Community structure of fleas within and among populations of three closely related rodent hosts: nestedness and beta-diversity



We studied nestedness and its relationships with beta-diversity in flea communities harboured by three closely related rodent species (Rhabdomys pumilio, Rhabdomys intermedius, Rhabdomys dilectus) at two spatial scales (within and among host populations) in South Africa and asked (a) whether variation in species composition of flea communities within and among host populations follows a non-random pattern; if yes, (b) what are the contributions of nestedness and species turnover to dissimilarity (= beta-diversity) among flea communities at the two scales; and (c) do the degree of nestedness and its contribution to beta-diversity differ among host species (social vs solitary) and between scales. We found that nestedness in flea assemblages was more pronounced (a) in social than solitary host species and (b) at lower (among host individuals within populations) than at higher scale (among host populations). We also found that higher degree of nestedness was associated with its higher contribution to beta-diversity. Our findings support earlier ideas that parasite community structure results from the processes of parasite accumulation by hosts rather than from the processes acting within parasite communities.


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*Corresponding author. Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Private bag X1, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, 7602, South Africa. Tel.: +27 (21) 808 4777. Fax: + 27 (21) 808 4821. E-mail:


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