Between 1992 and 1996, 587 wild red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa) from 16 Spanish provinces were examined to study the variations of helminth communities in this game species across a broad geographical area. The survey revealed 13 species of helminth parasites. Dicrocoelium sp., Rhabdometra nigropunctata, and Cheilospirura gruweli were the most common species, whereas Raillietina bolivari, Choanotaenia infundibulum, Tetrameres sp., and Capillaria anatis were the most rare. Subulura suctoria, Heterakis gallinarum, Heterakis tenuicaudata, Capillaria contorta, Trichostrongylus tenuis, and Raillietina tetragona occurred with intermediate frequencies. The abundance of C. gruweli, S. suctoria, H. tenuicaudata, T. tenuis, and R. tetragona was inversely correlated to latitude and directly correlated to yearly mean temperature, whereas the abundance of Dicrocoelium sp. was directly correlated to latitude and inversely correlated to yearly mean temperature. The abundance of R. tetragona was inversely correlated to latitude and yearly mean humidity. The number of helminths per partridge and the number of helminth species per partridge were lower in young birds than in adults. Partridge body condition was inversely correlated to abundance of C. contorta. Richer infracommunities were linked to richer component communities. At the infracommunity level, total number of helminths per partridge and number of helminth species per partridge were inversely correlated to latitude and directly correlated to yearly mean temperature. At the component community level, both species richness and diversity (Simpson's index) were inversely correlated to latitude and directly correlated to mean temperature. Across the broad geographical range of the study area, the helminth parasite communities of red-legged partridges had marked geographical variation in their structure. Our results suggest that this variation is determined by the distribution of both intermediate and definitive hosts. We discuss the implications of this variation for the hypothesis that supplementary releases of captive-bred partridges for sport hunting can affect the helminth fauna of wild red-legged partridges.
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