Regionally widespread parasitic water mites have relatively broad host-species ranges

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Certain parasite species have free-living stages, so habitat range may influence host-species range. We tested whether regional occurrence and habitat use of parasitic water mites were related to their host-species range. We collected 7445 Arrenurus Dugès, 1834 mites from 7107 coenagrionid damselflies, representing 11 host species from 13 sites in southeastern Ontario and southwestern Quebec. Because larval water mites are difficult to identify morphologically to species, we chose to amplify the barcode fragment of cytochrome oxidase subunit I to explore host-species ranges. Fifteen operational taxonomic units or clades were identified based on the amplification from 217 larval mites. The Arrenurus clades that were present in both bog and marsh habitats had a broader host-species range than clades found only in marshes (the comparison with one clade found only in bogs lacked statistical power). As predicted, host-species range increased with the regional occurrence of an Arrenurus clade. Additionally, the most commonly barcoded species also have high host-species ranges. This result could be because species with broader host-species ranges are more common and were more likely to be sampled and barcoded (an explanation we favor), or due to sampling bias. Although this is the first study exploring whether habitat range affects host-species range, further investigation is needed to tease apart which habitat factors influence host-species ranges the most.

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Canadian Journal of Zoology

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