Nestedness of parasite communities of intertidal fish in central Chile: how influential is the body length of the host?
Structure and richness of parasite communities varies substantially among species and body sizes of hosts, which can be determined by analyzing the nestedness. The nestedness pattern is originated when depauperate communities are subsets of those found in communities with greater species richness, and has normally used to study parasite communities. Therefore, in this study we determined whether the structure of parasite communities of the intertidal fish, of central Chile, relates to host lengths and parasitological descriptors, by the use of nested subset analyses. We collected 2 435 individuals of five fish species from the intertidal rocky zone of central Chile (32º02’-33º57’ S - 70º30’-70º30’ W): Helcogrammoides chilensis, Scartichthys viridis, Auchenionchus microcirrhis, Gobiesox marmoratus, and Sicyases sanguineus; each specimen was analyzed for parasites and its total body length (LT) was measured. The total species richness, average richness, abundance, diversity, and dominance of parasites infracommunity (all parasites in a host specimen) were calculated. Each fish species was classified into three LT ranges, to calculate the indices of nestedness and average of these parasitological descriptors in each LT range. We used the models given in the NTCP (Nestedness Temperature Calculator Program) and NODF (Nestedness metric based on Overlap and Decreasing Fill), considering the presence or absence of parasite species; we also used WNODF (Weighted-NODF) model for parasite abundances. The average of parasitological descriptors and LT of each host species, as well as the indices of nestedness were also calculated and related one another, considering the infracommunity and component community levels. The parasite infracommunity of most fish species exhibited a nestedness pattern structure, with the exception of G. marmoratus and H. chilensis, in some of the LT ranges. No relationship between the nestedness indices and fish LT was found. Nevertheless, direct correlations were observed among nestedness indices, average of richness, abundance and diversity of parasite infracommunity, and an inverse correlation with the parasite total richness (per LT range). Moreover, the nestedness pattern was present in all host species. We concluded that the parasite communities of intertidal fish are structured and predictable, and determined only minimally by the host LTs and the aggregated characteristics of the parasites, particularly at the infracommunity level.