Parasites form an integral part of overall biodiversity although they are often overlooked in conservation management, where emphasis is primarily directed towards the host. Parasites are often highly specialised to particular hosts, and thus may be just as threatened as the host they inhabit. For many of Australia’s wildlife species, little is known about their associated parasite communities. To begin to address this knowledge gap, we documented the parasite fauna described in the genetically diverse marsupial genus Petrogale, which contains seven species of conservation concern. The literature evaluation showed parasites of Petrogale to be highly diverse, with 17 species of protozoa, 8 species of cestodes, 102 species of nematodes and 30 species of ectoparasites identified in 16 of 17 Petrogale host species. A comparison of the parasite communities amongst Petrogale host species indicated a highly significant correlation between the parasite community similarity, and the phylogeny (P = 0.008) and biogeography (P = 0.0001) of their Petrogale hosts, suggesting high host specificity within their associated parasite assemblages. Five Petrogale species have established species recovery programs and their parasite communities should also be considered threatened, and management of parasite diversity required as part of these conservation programs.
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Vol. 64 • No. 1