Seasonal and habitat dependence of fleas parasitic on small mammals in Tanzania

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ISZS, Blackwell Publishing and IOZ/CA


We investigated host and flea species composition across different habitats during dry and rainy seasons in the Western Usambara Mountains in Tanzania. During both seasons, similarity in flea species composition increased with an increase in the similarity in host species composition. Nevertheless, between-season within-habitat as well as within-season between-habitat similarity in host species composition was higher than similarity in flea species composition. Ordination of habitats according to their host and flea species composition demonstrated that the pattern of between-habitat similarity in both host and flea species composition varied seasonally. Despite the relatively rich mammal and flea fauna of the study region, the major contribution to variation in species composition between seasons and among habitats was due to a few species only. Flea assemblages on Lophuromys kilonzoi Verheyen et al., 2007 and Praomys delectorum Thomas, 1910 in different habitats were equally similar in either season. In contrast, flea assemblages on Mastomys natalensis (Smith, 1834) occurring in different habitats were more similar in the dry than in the rainy season, whereas the opposite was the case for fleas on Grammomys sp. In different hosts, the main differences in species composition of flea assemblages between seasons as well as among habitats were due to different flea species. Although our results support the earlier idea that parasite species composition is determined by both host species composition and habitat properties, the former appears to explain variance in flea species composition between localities in the tropics better than between localities in temperate and arid zones.


Integrative Zoology 2009; vol 4: pp 196–212


Africa, Flea assemblages, Rodents, Seasonal, Tropical habitats