Does the niche breadth or trade-off hypothesis explain the abundance-occupancy relationship in avian Haemosporidia?
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Two hypotheses have been proposed to explain the abundance-occupancy relationship (AOR) in parasites. The niche breadth hypothesis suggests that host generalists are more abundant and efficient at colonizing different host communities than specialists. The trade-off hypothesis argues that host specialists achieve high density across their hosts' ranges, whereas generalists incur the high cost of adaptation to diverse immuno-defence systems. We tested these hypotheses using 386 haemosporidian cytochrome-b lineages (1894 sequences) recovered from 2318 birds of 103 species sampled in NW Africa, NW Iberia, W Greater Caucasus and Transcaucasia. The number of regions occupied by lineages was associated with their frequency suggesting the presence of AOR in avian Haemosporidia. However, neither hypothesis provided a better explanation for the AOR. Although the host generalist Plasmodium SGS1 was over three times more abundant than other widespread lineages, both host specialists and generalists were successful in colonizing all study regions and achieved high overall prevalence.