Species Identity Supersedes the Dilution Effect Concerning Hantavirus Prevalence at Sites across Texas and México Academic Article uri icon


  • Recent models suggest a relationship exists between community diversity and pathogen prevalence, the proportion of individuals in a population that are infected by a pathogen, with most inferences tied to assemblage structure. Two contrasting outcomes of this relationship have been proposed: the "dilution effect" and the "amplification effect." Small mammal assemblage structure in disturbed habitats often differs from assemblages in sylvan environments, and hantavirus prevalence is often negatively correlated with habitats containing high species diversity via dilution effect dynamics. As species richness increases, prevalence of infection often is decreased. However, anthropogenic changes to sylvan landscapes have been shown to decrease species richness and/or increase phylogenetic similarities within assemblages. Between January 2011 and January 2016, we captured and tested 2406 individual small mammals for hantavirus antibodies at 20 sites across Texas and México and compared differences in hantavirus seroprevalence, species composition, and assemblage structure between sylvan and disturbed habitats. We found 313 small mammals positive for antibodies against hantaviruses, evincing an overall prevalence of 9.7% across all sites. In total, 40 species of small mammals were identified comprising 2 taxonomic orders (Rodentia and Eulipotyphla). By sampling both habitat types concurrently, we were able to make real-world inferences into the efficacy of dilution effect theory in terms of hantavirus ecology. Our hypothesis predicting greater species richness higher in sylvan habitats compared to disturbed areas was not supported, suggesting the characteristics of assemblage structure do not adhere to current conceptions of species richness negatively influencing prevalence via a dilution effect.

author list (cited authors)

  • Milholland, M. T., Castro-Arellano, I., Arellano, E., Nava-García, E., Rangel-Altamirano, G., Gonzalez-Cozatl, F. X., ... Lacher, T. E.

citation count

  • 6

publication date

  • December 2017