Host parasite diversity plays a fundamental role in ecological and evolutionary processes, yet the factors that drive it are still poorly understood. A variety of processes, operating across a range of spatial scales, are likely to influence both the probability of parasite encounter and subsequent infection. Here, we explored eight possible determinants of parasite richness, comprising rainfall and temperature at the population level, ranging behavior and home range productivity at the group level, and age, sex, body condition, and social rank at the individual level. We used a unique dataset describing gastrointestinal parasites in a terrestrial subtropical vertebrate (chacma baboons, Papio ursinus), comprising 662 fecal samples from 86 individuals representing all age-sex classes across two groups over two dry seasons in a desert population. Three mixed models were used to identify the most important factor at each of the three spatial scales (population, group, individual); these were then standardized and combined in a single, global, mixed model. Individual age had thestrongest influence on parasite richness, in a convex relationship. Parasite richness was also higher in females and animals in poor condition, albeit at a lower order of magnitude than age. Finally, with a further halving of effect size, parasite richness was positively correlated to day range and temperature. These findings indicate that a range of factors influence host parasite richness through both encounter and infection probabilities but that individual-level processes may be more important than those at the group or population level. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012.
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