A variety of demographic, seasonal, and site-specific variables may influence parasitism, but the relative importance of these variables is generally unclear. We measured the relative ability of host characteristics, season, and site to explain louse (Trichodectes octomaculatus) and flea (Orchopeas howardi) infestation across 10 populations of raccoons (Procyon lotor). Lice are highly dependent on specific hosts and are predicted to display a relatively strong relationship with factors intrinsic to the host, when compared to fleas, which can infest multiple species and survive off-host for weeks without feeding. We developed a priori models that represented explicit hypotheses and contrasted their ability to predict infestation patterns. While the abundance of lice was seasonal, models that included solely host age and sex best predicted prevalence and abundance, in part because males were infested with 3 times the number of lice than were females. Conversely, flea prevalence and abundance, which peaks sharply in the spring, was best predicted by season; factors intrinsic to the host were relatively unimportant for predicting abundance. These, and other, recent findings emphasize the need to simultaneously assess the relative importance of multiple ecological variables between parasite species when attempting to describe general trends and constraints of host–parasite associations.
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