Patterns of macroparasite aggregation and the negative binomial distribution

D J Shaw, B T Grenfell, A P Dobson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Frequency distributions from 49 published wildlife host-macroparasite systems were analysed by maximum likelihood for goodness of fit to the negative binomial distribution. In 45 of the 49 (90%) data-sets, the negative binomial distribution provided a statistically satisfactory fit. In the other 4 data-sets the negative binomial distribution still provided a better fit than the Poisson distribution, and only 1 of the data-sets fitted the Poisson distribution. The degree of aggregation was large, with 43 of the 49 data-sets having an estimated k of less than 1. From these 49 data-sets, 22 subsets of host data were available (i.e. host data could be divided by either host sex, age, where or when hosts were sampled). In 11 of these 22 subsets there was significant variation in the degree of aggregation between host subsets of the same host-parasite system. A common k estimate was always larger than that obtained with all the host data considered together. These results indicate that lumping host data can hide important variations in aggregation between hosts and can exaggerate the true degree of aggregation. Wherever possible common k estimates should be used to estimate the degree of aggregation. In addition, significant differences in the degree of aggregation between subgroups of host data, were generally associated with significant differences in both mean parasite burdens and the prevalence of infection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-610
Number of pages14
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1998


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