Ecological investigations regarding the parasite fauna of grey mullets are scarce. The present study provides a detailed description of the helminth communities of Liza aurata in the Spanish western Mediterranean and analyzes the role of spatial, temporal, and host variables in shaping the infracommunities. In total, 204 fish were collected in 2 localities, situated ca. 290 km apart, in spring and fall of 2004 and 2005. A non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) was used to visualize an ordination of the infracommunities according to their relative similarities in parasite abundances. The relationship between infracommunity composition and explanatory variables (host size, locality, year, and season of harvest) was examined by permutational analysis of variance (PERMANOVA) applied to species abundances. Permutational tests for homogeneity of multivariate dispersion were used to test the null hypothesis of no differences in dispersion among groups formed by the factors whose effects were significant in PERMANOVA. A total of 33,241 helminth parasites, belonging to 18 species, was collected, i.e., 12 species of adult digeneans (23% of the parasite specimens), 3 digeneans as metacercariae (68%), 1 acanthocephalan (2.1%), and 2 monogeneans (6.5%). An important part of this helminth fauna is specialized to grey mullets, with a sizable portion of the component community restricted to the Mediterranean and northeast Atlantic. The NMDS ordination indicated high heterogeneity among infrapopulations. However, most differences at both the component and infracommunity level were related to geographic locality. In fact, the PERMANOVA showed that, among the explanatory variables considered, sampling locality accounted for the largest share of variation. The geographical differences observed may be related to local environmental characteristics or to the limited spatial dispersal of the species forming the component community. The latter was supported by the significant portion of variation explained by a 3-way interaction term. Thus, the spatial structure of our helminth infracommunities seems to be determined by a combination of differences in local environmental conditions and the transmission ability of each species at small local and time scales.
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