An extinction necessarily affects community members that have obligate relationships with the extinct species. Indirect or cascading effects can lead to even broader changes at the community or ecosystem level. However, it is not clear whether generalist parasites should be affected by the extinction of one of their hosts. We tested the prediction that loss of a host species could affect the structure of a generalist parasite community by investigating the role of endangered Light-footed Clapper Rails (Rallus longirostris levipes) in structuring trematode communities in four tidal wetlands in southern California, USA (Carpinteria Salt Marsh, Mugu Lagoon) and Mexico (Estero de Punta Banda, Bahia Falsa–San Quintín). We used larval trematode parasites in first intermediate host snails (Cerithidea californica) as windows into the adult trematodes that parasitize Clapper Rails. Within and among wetlands, we found positive associations between Clapper Rails and four trematode species, particularly in the vegetated marsh habitat where Clapper Rails typically occur. This suggests that further loss of Clapper Rails is likely to affect the abundance of several competitively dominant trematode species in wetlands with California horn snails, with possible indirect effects on the trematode community and changes in the impacts of these parasites on fishes and invertebrates.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Endangered light-footed clapper rail affects parasite community structure in coastal wetlands|
|Series title||Ecological Applications|
|Publisher||Ecological Society of America|
|Contributing office(s)||Western Ecological Research Center|