Auld S, Hall SR, Houslay Ochs J, Sebastian M & Duffy MA (2014) Predators and patterns of within-host growth can mediate both among-host competition and the evolution of transmission potential of parasites. American Naturalist, 184 (S1), pp. S77-S90. https://doi.org/10.1086/676927
Parasite prevalence shows tremendous spatiotemporal variation. Theory indicates that this variation might stem from life-history characteristics of parasites and key ecological factors. Here, we illustrate how the interaction of an important predator and the schedule of transmission potential of two parasites can explain parasite abundance. A field survey showed that a noncastrating fungus (Metschnikowia bicuspidata) commonly infected a dominant zooplankton host (Daphnia dentifera), while a castrating bacterial parasite (Pasteuria ramosa) was rare. This result seemed surprising given that the bacterium produces many more infectious propagules (spores) than the fungus upon host death. The fungus's dominance can be explained by the schedule of within-host growth of parasites (i.e., how transmission potential changes over the course of infection) and the release of spores from "sloppy" predators (Chaoborus spp., who consume Daphnia prey whole and then later regurgitate the carapace and parasite spores). In essence, sloppy predators create a niche that the faster-schedule fungus currently occupies. However, a selection experiment showed that the slower-schedule bacterium can evolve into this faster-schedule, predator-mediated niche (but pays a cost in maximal spore yield to do so). Hence, our study shows how parasite life history can interact with predation to strongly influence the ecology, epidemiology, and evolution of infectious disease.
parasitic castrators; virulence evolution; parasite competition; Chaoborus; obligate killers
American Naturalist: Volume 184, Issue S1