Ecological factors may influence the number of parasites encountered and, thus, parasite species richness. These factors
include diet, gregarity, conspecific and total host density, habitat, body size, vagility, and migration. One means of
examining the influence of these factors on parasite species richness is through a comparative analysis of the parasites of
different, but related, host species. In contrast to most comparative studies of parasite species richness of fish, which have
been conducted by using data from the literature, the present study uses data obtained by the investigators. Coral reef
fishes vary widely in the above ecological factors and are frequently parasitized by a diverse array of parasites. We,
therefore, chose to investigate how the above ecological factors influence parasite species richness in coral reef fishes.
We investigated the endoparasite species richness of 21 species of butterfly fishes (Chaetodontidae) of New Caledonia. We
mapped the diet characters on the existing butterfly fish phylogeny and found that omnivory appears to be ancestral.
We also mapped the estimated endoparasite species richness, coded from low to high parasite species richness, on the
existing butterfly fish phylogeny and found that low parasite species richness appears to be associated with the ancestral
state of omnivory. Different dietary and social strategies appear to have evolved more than once, with the exception of
obligate coralivory, which appears to have evolved only once. Finally, after controlling for phylogenetic relationships, we
found that only the percentage of plankton in the diet and conspecific host density were positively correlated with
endoparasite species richness.