Ecology eclipses phylogeny as a major driver of nematode parasite community structure in a graminivorous primate

India Schneider-Crease, Jacinta C. Beehner, Thore J. Bergman, Megan A. Gomery, Lia Koklic, Amy Lu, Noah Snyder-Mackler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Understanding how ecology and phylogeny shape parasite communities can inform parasite control and wildlife conservation initiatives while contributing to the study of host species evolution. We tested the relative strengths of phylogeny and ecology in driving parasite community structure in a host whose ecology diverges significantly from that of its closest phylogenetic relatives. We characterized the gastrointestinal (GI) parasite community of wild geladas Theropithecus gelada, primates that are closely related to baboons but specialized to graminovory in the Ethiopian Highlands. Geladas exhibited very constrained GI parasite communities: only two genera (Oesophagostomum and Trichostrongylus) were identified across 305 samples. This is far below the diversity reported for baboons (Papio spp.) and at the low end of the range of domestic grazers (e.g. Bos taurus, Ovis aries) inhabiting the same region and ecological niche. Using deep amplicon sequencing, we identified 15 amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) within the two genera, seven of which matched to Oesophagostomum sp., seven to Trichostrongylus sp., and one to T. vitrinus. Population was an important predictor of ASV richness. Geladas in the most ecologically disturbed area of the national park exhibited approximately four times higher ASV richness than geladas at a less disturbed location within the park. In this system, ecology was a stronger predictor of parasite community structure than was phylogeny, with geladas sharing more elements of their parasite communities with other grazers in the same area than with closely related sister taxa. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1898-1906
Number of pages9
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • cercopithecines
  • gastrointestinal parasites
  • habitat sharing
  • nemabiome
  • parasite community structure
  • parasite ecology
  • parasite evolution
  • primate parasite ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Ecology eclipses phylogeny as a major driver of nematode parasite community structure in a graminivorous primate'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this