Identifying co-phylogenetic hotspots for zoonotic disease

Alaina C. Pfenning-Butterworth, T. Jonathan Davies, Clayton E. Cressler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The incidence of zoonotic diseases is increasing worldwide, which makes identifying parasites likely to become zoonotic and hosts likely to harbour zoonotic parasites a critical concern. Prior work indicates that there is a higher risk of zoonotic spillover accruing from closely related hosts and from hosts that are infected with a high phylogenetic diversity of parasites. This suggests that host and parasite evolutionary history may be important drivers of spillover, but identifying whether host-parasite associations are more strongly structured by the host, parasite or both requires co-phylogenetic analyses that combine host-parasite association data with host and parasite phylogenies. Here, we use host-parasite datasets containing associations between helminth taxa and free-range mammals in combination with phylogenetic models to explore whether host, parasite, or both host and parasite evolutionary history influences host-parasite associations. We find that host phylogenetic history is most important for driving patterns of helminth-mammal association, indicating that zoonoses are most likely to come from a host's close relatives. More broadly, our results suggest that co-phylogenetic analyses across broad taxonomic scales can provide a novel perspective for surveying potential emerging infectious diseases. This article is part of the theme issue 'Infectious disease macroecology: parasite diversity and dynamics across the globe'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20200363
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1837
StatePublished - Nov 8 2021


  • co-phylogenetics
  • helminths
  • host-parasite
  • mammals
  • network
  • zoonoses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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