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Keywords:

  • Ectoparasite;
  • spatial distribution;
  • Peromyscus leucopus;
  • disease ecology

ABSTRACT:

The goal of this study was to evaluate the role of habitat in determining ectoparasite distribution of Peromyscus leucopus. We tested the hypothesis that ectoparasite occurrence is associated with particular host environments and this association is stronger for ectoparasites with limited interactions (i.e., ticks) than those with frequent interactions (i.e., lice). Ectoparasites from three different groups (Acari, Siphonaptera, and Phthiraptera) were collected from P. leucopus inhabiting a number of forested habitats in southern Michigan. Measurements of plant species structure and composition were collected and models were developed using quadratic discriminant function analysis to determine if habitats associated with ectoparasite presence were different from those associated with their absence. Mice parasitized by ticks were more likely to be found in areas having undergone a recent disturbance. Mice parasitized by ticks, fleas, and lice were more likely to be found in areas having tree species associated with dry soils. Our results show there is a distinct difference in habitats associated with the presence of ectoparasites, though we did not observe a stronger association of host habitat for ticks than for fleas or lice. This implies habitat should be included as an important component of assessments of the spatial distribution of ectoparasites.