Patterns of host–parasite association may vary across the landscape in part because of host and parasite diversity, divergence, local ecology, or interactions among these factors. In central coastal California, we quantified parasite prevalence, infection intensity, and diversity in two sister species of woodrats (Neotoma fuscipes and Neotoma macrotis) where the species co-occur (sympatry) and where each species exists alone (allopatry). In feces from 50 adults we identified seven taxa: the protozoans Eimeria, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium, the nematodes Trichuris, Aspicularis, and Eucoleus, and a cestode in the family Anoplocephalidae. Gastrointestinal parasite infection intensity and diversity were higher in males than in females, a difference that was most pronounced in the more aggressive N. fuscipes. Both species had lower infection intensity in sympatry than in allopatry and in sympatry the two species did not differ in infection intensity in total but did maintain distinct parasite communities. Taken together, our findings suggest that host evolutionary differences, including perhaps species-specific patterns of aggressive behavior, as well as local ecology, influence the likelihood of infection by these endoparasite taxa.
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Vol. 51 • No. 2