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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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The variety of prey in a shark’s diet may have a large influence on how many parasite species infect them. Photos: Martin Graf

Rasmussen TK, Randhawa HS


Host diet influences parasite diversity: a case study looking at tapeworm diversity among sharks

The diet of an animal can play a large role in determining what and how many parasite species it encounters. However, until recently diet has often been neglected in studies aiming to understand what factors are most important for determining parasite diversity. Rasmussen and Randhawa investigated the importance of host diet on tapeworm diversity in sharks relative to other key factors, including host size, habitat, phylogeny, latitude, and depth. Of all factors investigated, the breadth of a shark species’ diet was found to be the most important determinant of their tapeworm species richness. Based on these findings, it is suggested that shark species with broader diets encounter and subsequently acquire more tapeworm species than those with restricted diets.


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