Document Type



Parasites comprise a significant percentage of the biodiversity of the planet and are useful systems to test evolutionary and ecological hypotheses. In this study, we analyze the effect of host species identity and the immediate local species assemblage within mixed species colonies of nesting seabirds on patterns of genetic clustering within two species of multihost ectoparasitic lice. We use three genetic markers (one mitochondrial, COI, and two nuclear, EF1‐α and wingless) and maximum likelihood phylogenetic trees to test whether (1) parasites show lineage sorting based on their host species; and (2) switching of lineages to the alternate host species depends on the immediate local species assemblage of individual hosts within a colony. Specifically, we examine the genetic structure of two louse species: Eidmanniella albescens, infecting both Nazca (Sula granti) and blue‐footed boobies (Sula nebouxii), and Fregatiella aurifasciata, infecting both great (Fregata minor) and magnificent frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens). We found that host species identity was the only factor explaining the patterns of genetic structure in both parasites. In both cases, there is evident genetic differentiation depending on the host species. Thus, a revision of the taxonomy of these louse species is needed. One possible explanation of this pattern is extremely low louse migration rates between host species, perhaps influenced by fine‐scale spatial separation of host species within mixed colonies, and low parasite infrapopulation numbers.

Publication Date

January 2015

Publication Title

Ecology and Evolution





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