Understanding the patterns of species distribution and abundance has been at the core of ecology. In general, these patterns are determined by species dispersion as well as by abiotic and biotic environmental conditions. Similarly, host–parasite relations and the structure of parasite assemblages are also shaped by environmental conditions and landscape composition. Herein, we assessed the influence of environmental variables and parasite species dispersion on the structure of helminth parasites communities in the frog Leptodactylus podicipinus. We sampled 10 ponds and recorded area, depth, altitude, pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity, temperature, and extent of soil, water, and vegetation cover as well as the distances between the ponds. We collected 121 frogs and found 9 helminth taxa; 2 of them were core species (prevalence higher than 50%), which contributed to the relatively high similarity observed among the ponds. Most of the helminths showed some variation in the frequencies of occurrence among communities from different ponds. The change in species composition among ponds was explained by the environmental variables but not by the distance between the ponds. Moreover, the results indicated that local processes (variation in environmental conditions) were more important than the regional processes (species distribution) in determining the structure of parasite communities. The variation in helminth communities among ponds in response to moderate differences in pond environmental characteristics points to the potential of helminth species as indicators of environmental conditions.
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Vol. 98 • No. 2