Community structure of helminth parasites in whitefish from the Caribou Mountains, Alberta

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Baldwin, Rebecca
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Arts and Science
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Arts and Science, 2000
Spatial patterns in parasite communities of freshwater fish are often characterized as low in diversity and unpredictable. Whether or not his view is a true reflection of community patterns is unclear, in particular when comparing studies of parasite communities of fish occuring in man-altered ecosystems. To understand the structure of a fish parasite community, I first described the parasite fauna of 13 species of freshwater fish from 19 isolated lakes on the Caribou Mountains plateau in northern Alberta. After my initial broad-scale survey, I selected the diverse and complex community of parasites in whitefish, (Coregonus clupeaformis) for further analysis. This host had the most diverse parasite community of any species of fish on the plateau and was disproportionally important in the dissemination of parasites to the other species of fish. Ten parasite species infected whitefish in the 7 large lakes on the plateau; 7 were core species (i.e found in every lake) and 9 were salmonid specialists. Parasite intensities were much higher (>100 per host) in the Caribou Mountains than elsewhere in Canada, as was community similarity (>70%). Ordination analyses showed that 48% of the variation in parasite intensities between lakes could be explained by factors associated with aquatic productivity (e.g. chlorophyll-a and total phosphorus). Low-intensity lakes were characterized by low productivity and high colour and high-intensity lakes were characterized by low productivity and high colour and high-intensity lakes had high prductivity and low colour. Patterns of high similarity between lakes, together with the association between aquatic productivity and community structure shows that the spatial structure of parasite communities can be predicted on the basis of a common suite of specialist, core species.
vii, 147 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Helminths -- Hosts , Helminths -- Alberta -- Caribou Mountains , Whitefishes -- Parasites -- Alberta -- Caribou Mountains , Freshwater fishes -- Parasites -- Alberta -- Caribou Mountains , Dissertations, Academic