BACKGROUND : Ectoparasites exhibit pronounced variation in life history characteristics such as time spent on the
host and host range. Since contemporary species distribution (SD) modelling does not account for differences in
life history, the accuracy of predictions of current and future species’ ranges could differ significantly between life
RESULTS : SD model performance was compared between 21 flea species that differ in microhabitat preferences and
level of host specificity. Distribution models generally performed well, with no significant differences in model
performance based on either microhabitat preferences or host specificity. However, the relative importance of
predictor variables was significantly related to host specificity, with the distribution of host-opportunistic fleas
strongly limited by thermal conditions and host-specific fleas more associated with conditions that restrict their
hosts’ distribution. The importance of temperature was even more pronounced when considering microhabitat
preference, with the distribution of fur fleas being strongly limited by thermal conditions and nest fleas more
associated with variables that affect microclimatic conditions in the host nest.
CONCLUSIONS : Contemporary SD modelling, that includes climate and landscape variables, is a valuable tool to study
the biogeography and future distributions of fleas and other parasites taxa. However, consideration of life history
characteristics is cautioned as species may be differentially sensitive to environmental conditions.