Parasite loads are higher in the tropics: temperate to tropical variation in a single host-parasite system


  • Daniel J. Salkeld,

  • Mandar Trivedi,

  • Lin Schwarzkopf

D. J. Salkeld (, M. Trivedi and L. Schwarzkopf, School of Tropical Biology, James Cook Univ. Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia. (Present address of D. J. S.: Dept of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.)


Parasites are important selective forces upon the evolutionary ecology of their hosts. At least one hypothesis suggests that high species diversity in the tropics is associated with higher parasite abundance in tropical climates. Few studies, however, have directly assessed whether parasite abundance is higher in the tropics. To address this question, it is ideal, although seldom achievable, to compare parasite abundance in a single species that occurs over a geographical area including both temperate and tropical regions. We examined variation in blood parasite abundance in seven populations of a single lizard host species (Eulamprus quoyii) using a transect that spans temperate and tropical climates. Parasite prevalence (proportion of the host population infected) showed no geographical pattern. Interestingly though, parasite load was higher in lizard populations in the tropics, and was related to mean annual temperature, but not to rainfall. We speculate that in this system the relationship between latitude and parasite load is most likely due to variation in host life history over their geographic range.