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Population and community descriptor values (parasites per host, prevalence per parasite species, variance/mean ratios, species density, and diversity indices) for the 7-species parasite community of 61 relatively homogeneous samples of Fundulus zebrinus (Pisces: Cyprinodontidae) in the South Platte River of Nebraska, U.S.A., taken over a 14-yr period, are reported. South Platte River streamflow fluctuates over two orders of magnitude on several time scales-monthly, annually, and over multiple year wet-dry cycles. Relatively homogeneous sampling of a single host species with several parasite species provided a system that allowed assessment of the contribution of evolved parasite life cycles to population structure in an everchanging environment. No significant negative species-to-species associations were observed. Species abundance, order of abundance, and diversity were affected most strongly by streamflow, with high water reducing prevalence and abundance of larval trematode parasites. Each parasite species had its characteristic long- and short-term patterns of variation in population descriptor values, with mostly long- term stability superimposed on sometimes extreme short-term fluctuations of descriptor values. The differences in these characteristic patterns were considered products primarily of the evolved life cycle traits and transmission mechanisms operating in the common fluctuating environment. The parasite community as a whole showed resilience, returning to preperturbation diversity following extended periods of high water.


Published in the Journal of Parasitology (August 1997) 83(4): 584-592. Copyright 1997, the American Society of Parasitologists. Used by permission.