In this study, researchers used a network approach to systematically describe ecological relationships between ticks, their hosts, and the pathogens they carry. More than 3 million GBIF-mediated occurrences went into mapping habitats of 276 vertebrate hosts; combining these with phylogenetic trees and a systematic review of species interactions, the authors produced a clustered network of relationships. This novel application revealed a highly connected and robustly structured network and, in a noteworthy finding for parasitic ecology, shows that 70 per cent of ticks share hosts related only by environment, not genetics. The authors conclude that this framework is readily adaptable to similar scientific problems.
Interactions between tick and transmitted pathogens evolved to minimise competition through nested and coherent networks