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Host diversity and latitude drive trematode diversity patterns in the European freshwater fauna


David W. Thieltges, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands. E-mail:


Aim  We investigated the relationship between host and parasite diversity as well as latitudinal gradients in parasite diversity on a continental scale in European freshwater trematodes.

Location  European freshwaters.

Methods  We extracted distributional data for 564 freshwater trematodes across 25 biogeographical regions in Europe from the Limnofauna Europaea and used multiple regression analyses to test for correlations between the diversity of definitive (vertebrates) or first intermediate (gastropods) hosts and that of trematodes, and for latitudinal gradients in trematode diversity. In particular, we investigated patterns in beta diversity among latitudinal bands and between trematode species that parasitize host groups with low (autogenic) and high (allogenic) dispersal capacity. We also tested for a latitudinal gradient in the proportional representation of these two trematode groups within regional faunas.

Results  Latitude or first intermediate host richness had no effect on trematode richness, but definitive host richness was a strong predictor of trematode richness, among both allogenic and autogenic parasites. We found that beta diversity of trematode faunas within latitudinal bands decreased to the north, with similar values for allogenic and autogenic trematodes. Finally, we observed an increasing proportion of autogenic species toward the north of Europe.

Main conclusions  The richness of definitive hosts appears to be the driver of trematode diversity at a continental scale. The latitudinal gradient in beta diversity reflects patterns observed in free-living species and probably results from recolonization in the aftermath of the ice ages. The similar beta-diversity patterns of allogenic and autogenic trematodes and the increasing proportion of autogenic trematodes with increasing latitude are surprising. We suggest that the geographical scale of our analysis or confounding factors such as differences in habitat utilization and specialization may partly explain these patterns.