Metazoan parasite species richness in Neotropical fishes: hotspots and the geography of biodiversity.Parasitology. 2007 Jun; 134(Pt 6):865-78.P
Although research on parasite biodiversity has intensified recently, there are signs that parasites remain an underestimated component of total biodiversity in many regions of the planet. To identify geographical hotspots of parasite diversity, we performed qualitative and quantitative analyses of the parasite-host associations in fishes from Latin America and the Caribbean, a region that includes known hotspots of plant and animal biodiversity. The database included 10,904 metazoan parasite-host associations involving 1660 fish species. The number of host species with at least 1 parasite record was less than 10% of the total known fish species in the majority of countries. Associations involving adult endoparasites in actinopterygian fish hosts dominated the database. Across the whole region, no significant difference in parasite species richness was detected between marine and freshwater fishes. As a rule, host body size and study effort (number of studies per fish species) were good predictors of parasite species richness. Some interesting patterns emerged when we included only the regions with highest fish species biodiversity and study effort (Brazil, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands). Independently of differences in study effort or host body sizes, Mexico stands out as a hotspot of parasite diversity for freshwater fishes, as does Brasil for marine fishes. However, among 57 marine fish species common to all 3 regions, populations from the Caribbean consistently harboured more parasite species. These differences may reflect true biological patterns, or regional discrepancies in study effort and local priorities for fish parasitology research.