The population dynamics of parasitic helminth communities

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This paper describes a mathematical model which allows us to compare the data collected from short-term cross-sectional surveys with the population dynamics of host and parasite populations over longer periods of time. The model extends an earlier framework for two parasite species in one host, to one for an arbitrary number of parasite species. We show that the conditions necessary for the coexistence of two parasite species extend to expressions for the coexistence of three or more parasite species. Furthermore, the model suggests that those species which form the ‘core’ of the parasite community are those whose high fecundity and transmission efficiency permit them to colonize hosts readily. In contrast, those species which are classified as ‘satellite’ species of the community are either species with low fecundity, or low transmission efficiencies. This work confirms earlier studies that suggest that increasing degrees of aggregation are crucial in allowing several species of parasites to coexist in the same species of hosts. The properties of the model are compared with patterns observed in data collected for helminth parasites of Anolis lizards, wood mice and eels. This combined theoretical and empirical approach confirms the importance of the life history strategies of the parasite in determining the abundance of each species in the community. It suggests that studies of parasite community structure have to pay more attention to the strategies pursued by each individual species before interactions between species are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S97-S108
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Parasitology


  • Helminth community
  • competition
  • interspecific interactions
  • life history
  • mathematical model
  • transmission


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