Host density and competency determine the effects of host diversity on trematode parasite infection.
ABSTRACT: Variation in host species composition can dramatically alter parasite transmission in natural communities. Whether diverse host communities dilute or amplify parasite transmission is thought to depend critically on species traits, particularly on how hosts affect each other's densities, and their relative competency as hosts. Here we studied a community of potential hosts and/or decoys (i.e. non-competent hosts) for two trematode parasite species, Echinostoma trivolvis and Ribeiroia ondatrae, which commonly infect wildlife across North America. We manipulated the density of a focal host (green frog tadpoles, Rana clamitans), in concert with manipulating the diversity of alternative species, to simulate communities where alternative species either (1) replace the focal host species so that the total number of individuals remains constant (substitution) or (2) add to total host density (addition). For E. trivolvis, we found that total parasite transmission remained roughly equal (or perhaps decreased slightly) when alternative species replaced focal host individuals, but parasite transmission was higher when alternative species were added to a community without replacing focal host individuals. Given the alternative species were roughly equal in competency, these results are consistent with current theory. Remarkably, both total tadpole and per-capita tadpole infection intensity by E. trivolvis increased with increasing intraspecific host density. For R. ondatrae, alternative species did not function as effective decoys or hosts for parasite infective stages, and the diversity and density treatments did not produce clear changes in parasite transmission, although high tank to tank variation in R. ondatrae infection could have obscured patterns.
Project description:Host-parasite interactions are embedded within complex communities composed of multiple host species and a cryptic assemblage of other parasites. To date, however, surprisingly few studies have explored the joint effects of host and parasite richness on disease risk, despite growing interest in the diversity-disease relationship. Here, we combined field surveys and mechanistic experiments to test how transmission of the virulent trematode Ribeiroia ondatrae was affected by the diversity of both amphibian hosts and coinfecting parasites. Within natural wetlands, host and parasite species richness correlated positively, consistent with theoretical predictions. Among sites that supported Ribeiroia, however, host and parasite richness interacted to negatively affect Ribeiroia transmission between its snail and amphibian hosts, particularly in species-poor assemblages. In laboratory and outdoor experiments designed to decouple the relative contributions of host and parasite diversity, increases in host richness decreased Ribeiroia infection by 11-65%. Host richness also tended to decrease total infections by other parasite species (four of six instances), such that more diverse host assemblages exhibited ?40% fewer infections overall. Importantly, parasite richness further reduced both per capita and total Ribeiroia infection by 15-20%, possibly owing to intrahost competition among coinfecting species. These findings provide evidence that parasitic and free-living diversity jointly regulate disease risk, help to resolve apparent contradictions in the diversity-disease relationship, and emphasize the challenges of integrating research on coinfection and host heterogeneity to develop a community ecology-based approach to infectious diseases.
Project description:A key challenge surrounding ongoing climate shifts is to identify how they alter species interactions, including those between hosts and parasites. Because transmission often occurs during critical time windows, shifts in the phenology of either taxa can alter the likelihood of interaction or the resulting pathology. We quantified how phenological synchrony between vulnerable stages of an amphibian host (<i>Pseudacris regilla</i>) and infection by a pathogenic trematode (<i>Ribeiroia ondatrae</i>) determined infection prevalence, parasite load and host pathology. By tracking hosts and parasite infection throughout development between low- and high-elevation regions (San Francisco Bay Area and the Southern Cascades (Mt Lassen)), we found that when phenological synchrony was high (Bay Area), each established parasite incurred a 33% higher probability of causing severe limb malformations relative to areas with less synchrony (Mt Lassen). As a result, hosts in the Bay Area had up to a 50% higher risk of pathology even while controlling for the mean infection load. Our results indicate that host-parasite interactions and the resulting pathology were the joint product of infection load and phenological synchrony, highlighting the sensitivity of disease outcomes to forecasted shifts in climate.
Project description:Associations among parasites affect many aspects of host-parasite dynamics, but a lack of analytical tools has limited investigations of parasite correlations in observational data that are often nested across spatial and biological scales.Here we illustrate how hierarchical, multiresponse modeling can characterize parasite associations by allowing for hierarchical structuring, offering estimates of uncertainty, and incorporating correlational model structures. After introducing the general approach, we apply this framework to investigate coinfections among four amphibian parasites (the trematodes Ribeiroia ondatrae and Echinostoma spp., the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, and ranaviruses) and among >2000 individual hosts, 90 study sites, and five amphibian host species.Ninety-two percent of sites and 80% of hosts supported two or more pathogen species. Our results revealed strong correlations between parasite pairs that varied by scale (from among hosts to among sites) and classification (microparasite versus macroparasite), but were broadly consistent across taxonomically diverse host species. At the host-scale, infection by the trematode R. ondatrae correlated positively with the microparasites, B. dendrobatidis and ranavirus, which were themselves positively associated. However, infection by a second trematode (Echinostoma spp.) correlated negatively with B. dendrobatidis and ranavirus, both at the host- and site-level scales, highlighting the importance of differential relationships between micro- and macroparasites.Given the extensive number of coinfecting symbiont combinations inherent to natural systems, particularly across multiple host species, multiresponse modeling of cross-sectional field data offers a valuable tool to identify a tractable number of hypothesized interactions for experimental testing while accounting for uncertainty and potential sources of co-exposure. For amphibians specifically, the high frequency of co-occurrence and coinfection among these pathogens - each of which is known to impair host fitness or survival - highlights the urgency of understanding parasite associations for conservation and disease management.
Project description:By definition, parasites harm their hosts. However, some forms of parasite-induced alterations increase parasite transmission between hosts, such that manipulated hosts can be considered extensions of the parasite's phenotype. While well accepted in principle, surprisingly few studies have quantified how parasite manipulations alter host performance and survival under field and laboratory conditions.By interfering with limb development, the trematode Ribeiroia ondatrae causes particularly severe morphological alterations within amphibian hosts that provide an ideal system to evaluate parasite-induced changes in phenotype. Here, we coupled laboratory performance trials with a capture-mark-recapture study of 1388 Pacific chorus frogs (Pseudacris regilla) to quantify the effects of parasite-induced malformations on host locomotion, foraging, and survival. Malformations, which affected ? 50% of metamorphosing frogs in nature, caused dramatic reductions in all measures of organismal function. Malformed frogs exhibited significantly shorter jumping distances (41% reduction), slower swimming speeds (37% reduction), reduced endurance (66% reduction), and lower foraging success relative to infected hosts without malformations. Furthermore, while normal and malformed individuals had comparable survival within predator-free exclosures, deformed frogs in natural populations had 22% lower biweekly survival than normal frogs and rarely recruited to the adult population over a two-year period.Our results highlight the ability of parasites to deeply alter multiple dimensions of host phenotype with important consequences for performance and survival. These patterns were best explained by malformation status, rather than infection per se, helping to decouple the direct and indirect effects of parasitism on host fitness.
Project description:There is growing interest in the role that life-history traits of hosts, such as their 'pace-of-life', play in the evolution of resistance and tolerance to parasites. Theory suggests that, relative to host species that have high syntopy (local spatial and temporal overlap) with parasites, host species with low syntopy should have lower selection pressures for more constitutive (always present) and costly defences, such as tolerance, and greater reliance on more inducible and cheaper defences, such as behaviour. Consequently, we postulated that the degree of host-parasite syntopy, which is negatively correlated with host pace-of-life (an axis reflecting the developmental rate of tadpoles and the inverse of their size at metamorphosis) in our tadpole-parasitic cercarial (trematode) system, would be a negative and positive predictor of behavioural resistance and tolerance, respectively. To test these hypotheses, we exposed seven tadpole species to a range of parasite (cercarial) doses crossed with anaesthesia treatments that controlled for anti-parasite behaviour. We quantified host behaviour, successful and unsuccessful infections, and each species' reaction norm for behavioural resistance and tolerance, defined as the slope between cercarial exposure (or attempted infections) and anti-cercarial behaviours and mass change, respectively. Hence, tolerance is capturing any cost of parasite exposure. As hypothesized, tadpole pace-of-life was a significant positive predictor of behavioural resistance and negative predictor of tolerance, a result that is consistent with a trade-off between behavioural resistance and tolerance across species that warrants further investigation. Moreover, these results were robust to considerations of phylogeny, all possible re-orderings of the three fastest or slowest paced species, and various measurements of tolerance. These results suggest that host pace-of-life and host-parasite syntopy are powerful drivers of both the strength and type of host defence strategies against parasites. Future research should evaluate how often and how strongly host pace-of-life and host-parasite syntopy are correlated and which is the better predictor of the strength and type of host investments in anti-parasite defences.
Project description:Understanding the transmission and dynamics of infectious diseases in natural communities requires understanding the extent to which the ecology, evolution and epidemiology of those diseases are shaped by alternative hosts. We performed laboratory experiments to test how parasite spillover affected traits associated with transmission in two co-occurring parasites: the bacterium Pasteuria ramosa and the fungus Metschnikowia bicuspidata Both parasites were capable of transmission from the reservoir host (Daphnia dentifera) to the spillover host (Ceriodaphnia dubia), but this occurred at a much higher rate for the fungus than the bacterium. We quantified transmission potential by combining information on parasite transmission and growth rate, and used this to compare parasite fitness in the two host species. For both parasites, transmission potential was lower in the spillover host. For the bacterium, virulence was higher in the spillover host. Transmission back to the original host was high for both parasites, with spillover influencing transmission rate of the fungus but not the bacterium. Thus, while inferior, the spillover host is not a dead-end for either parasite. Overall, our results demonstrate that the presence of multiple hosts in a community can have important consequences for disease transmission, and host and parasite fitness.This article is part of the themed issue 'Opening the black box: re-examining the ecology and evolution of parasite transmission'.
Project description:The amphibian parasite Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is regarded as an extreme generalist, infecting over 500 species, but amongst these hosts there exists a great deal of variation in the susceptibility to and the costs of parasite exposure. We use two infection experiments to determine whether inter-specific variation in the sublethal and lethal effects of parasite exposure exist in two host species. We then tested the relative roles of host density and diversity on infection probability of a focal susceptible host. Our results show significant heterogeneity in host species response to parasite exposure, and that both lethal and sub-lethal costs exist in individuals that are able to resist infection, indicating that successful immune response to infection comes at a cost. Further, we show that increasing host density significantly increased the likelihood of susceptible individuals becoming infected with Bd irrespective of host diversity and variation in host susceptibility. These results suggest that populations of resistant species are likely to suffer ill-effects of exposure to Bd regardless of their infection status, and that at the stage of initial infection there was no support for the dilution of transmission events, in contrast to other studies that focus on subsequent transmission of infection.
Project description:Transmission of parasites between host species affects host population dynamics, interspecific competition, and ecosystem structure and function. In areas where wild and domestic herbivores share grazing land, management of parasites in livestock may affect or be affected by sympatric wildlife due to cross-species transmission.We develop a novel method for simulating transmission potential based on both biotic and abiotic factors in a semi-arid system in Botswana. Optimal timing of antiparasitic treatment in livestock is then compared under a variety of alternative host scenarios, including seasonally migrating wild hosts.In this region, rainfall is the primary driver of seasonality of transmission, but wildlife migration leads to spatial differences in the effectiveness of treatment in domestic animals. Additionally, competent migratory wildlife hosts move parasites across the landscape.Simulated transmission potential matches observed patterns of clinical disease in livestock in the study area. Increased wildlife contact is correlated with a decrease in disease, suggesting that non-competent wild hosts may attenuate transmission by removing infective parasite larvae from livestock pasture.Optimising the timing of treatment according to within-year rainfall patterns was considerably more effective than treating at a standard time of year. By targeting treatment in this way, efficient control can be achieved, mitigating parasite spillover from wildlife where it does occur. Synthesis and applications. This model of parasite transmission potential enables evidence-based management of parasite spillover between wild and domestic species in a spatio-temporally dynamic system. It can be applied in other mixed-use systems to mitigate parasite transmission under altered climate scenarios or changes in host ranges.
Project description:Approaches based on organismal DNA found in the environment (eDNA) have become increasingly utilized for ecological studies and biodiversity inventories as an alternative to traditional field survey methods. Such DNA-based techniques have largely been used to establish the presence of free-living organisms, but have much potential for detecting and quantifying infectious agents in the environment, which is necessary to evaluate disease risk. We developed an eDNA method to examine the distribution and abundance of the trematode Ribeiroia ondatrae, a pathogenic parasite known to cause malformations in North American amphibians. In addition to comparing this eDNA approach to classical host necropsy, we examined the detectability of R. ondatrae in water samples subject to different degradation conditions (time and temperature). Our test exhibited high specificity and sensitivity to R. ondatrae, capable of detecting as little as 14 fg (femtograms) of this parasite's DNA (1/2500th of a single infectious stage) from field water samples. Compared to our results from amphibian host necropsy, quantitative PCR was -90% concordant with respect to R. ondatrae detection from 15 field sites and was also a significant predictor of host infection abundance. DNA was still detectable in lab samples after 21 days at 25°C, indicating that our method is robust to field conditions. By comparing the advantages and disadvantages of eDNA vs. traditional survey methods for determining pathogen presence and abundance in the field, we found that the lower cost and effort associated with eDNA approaches provide many advantages. The development of alternative tools is critical for disease ecology, as wildlife management and conservation efforts require reliable establishment and monitoring of pathogens.
Project description:For non-mobile parasites living on social hosts, infection dynamics are strongly influenced by host life history and social system. We explore the impact of host social systems on parasite population dynamics by comparing the infection intensity and transmission opportunities of three mite species of the genus Spinturnix across their three European bat hosts (Myotis daubentonii, Myotis myotis, Myotis nattereri) during the bats' autumn mating season. Mites mainly reproduce in host maternity colonies in summer, but as these colonies are closed, opportunities for inter-colony transmission are limited to host interactions during the autumn mating season. The three investigated hosts differ considerably in their social system, most notably in maternity colony size, mating system, and degree of male summer aggregation. We observed marked differences in parasite infection during the autumn mating period between the species, closely mirroring the predictions made based on the social systems of the hosts. Increased host aggregation sizes in summer yielded higher overall parasite prevalence and intensity, both in male and female hosts. Moreover, parasite levels in male hosts differentially increased throughout the autumn mating season in concordance with the degree of contact with female hosts afforded by the different mating systems of the hosts. Critically, the observed host-specific differences have important consequences for parasite population structure and will thus affect the coevolutionary dynamics between the interacting species. Therefore, in order to accurately characterize host-parasite dynamics in hosts with complex social systems, a holistic approach that investigates parasite infection and transmission across all periods is warranted.