Spatial variation in mammal and ectoparasite communities in the foothills along the Southern Appalachian Mountains

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Anna Marie Mellis (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Bryan McLean

Abstract: Small mammal and ectoparasite community variation and abundance is important for monitoring the transmission rate of zoonotic diseases and informing conservation efforts that maintain host and parasite biodiversity in ecosystems facing global climate change. The purpose of this study was to identify the factors driving variation in small mammal and ectoparasite communities in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. I took an approach to sampling that allowed me to test predictions from island biogeography theory; namely, that host species richness varies with distance from the main Appalachian mountain range. I also examined how ectoparasite species richness varied with small mammal richness as well as ecological variables. Finally, I analyzed ectoparasite abundances at the community- and individual-host levels to understand how changes in host species richness may affect infestation rates. Comprehensive field surveys and ectoparasite screenings were performed across four field sites, two isolated from the Southern Appalachian Mountains and two along the Southern Appalachian Mountains. I found that these field sites were characterized by a mix of high and low elevation mammal species, and that community structure varied with degree of isolation for mammals, but not ectoparasites. Habitat type was a significant driver of species variation within and among sites. I found decreased abundances in ectoparasite compound communities when host species diversity was highest, which is consistent with predictions from a dilution effect. However, when evaluating abundances of individual ectoparasites, only one (Leptotrombidium peromysci) of four species displayed patterns consistent a dilution effect. My results provide new information on small mammal distributions and ectoparasite associations at disparate sites across the foothills of the Southern Appalachians but suggest that host-parasite associations and the intensity of infection are subject to additional environmental or ecological drivers beyond those investigated here.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
Southern Appalachian Mountains, Small mammals, Ectoparasites
Mammals $z Appalachian Region, Southern $x Geographical distribution
Parasites $z Appalachian Region, Southern $x Geographical distribution
Biogeography $z Appalachian Region, Southern

Email this document to