Patterns of species co-occurrence and density compensation: A test for interspecific competition in bat ectoparasite infracommunities

J. Sebastián Tello, Richard D. Stevens, Carl W. Dick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Parasites constitute an ideal system with which to investigate patterns and mechanisms of community structure and dynamics. Nevertheless, despite their prevalence in natural systems, parasites have been examined less often than other organisms traditionally used for testing hypotheses of community assembly. In the present study, we investigate possible effects of competitive interactions on patterns of distribution (co-occurrence) and density among a group of streblid bat flies parasitic on short-tailed fruit bats, Carollia perspicillata. Using null model analyses of species co-occurrence, we did not find evidence that competition affects the distribution of bat fly species across hosts. Moreover, when non-infested hosts were included, analyses showed evidence for interspecific aggregation, rather than for the segregation predicted by competition theory. Partial Pearson correlations among bat fly species densities showed no evidence of negative covariation in two of three cases. In the species pair for which a significant negative correlation was found, a visual analysis of plotted covariation indicated a constraint line, suggesting that competition between these two species might become operational only in some infracommunities when abundances of bat flies approach a maximum set by one or more limiting resources. Moreover, when a community-wide estimation of the significance of density compensation was calculated, the result was not significant. Overall, we find no evidence that competition influences the distribution of bat flies on their hosts, and mixed support for effects of competition on the densities of species. These results are consistent with the idea that competition plays a role in structuring natural communities, but in many systems its effects are context-dependent and might not be important relative to other factors. Wider analyses across taxonomic and environmental gradients and a detailed consideration of the different hypothesized effects of competition are necessary to fully understand the importance of competition on natural communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-702
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008


Dive into the research topics of 'Patterns of species co-occurrence and density compensation: A test for interspecific competition in bat ectoparasite infracommunities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this