Two different strategies of host manipulation allow parasites to persist in intermediate-definitive host systems

Vries, L.J. de; Langevelde, F. van


Trophically transmitted parasites start their development in an intermediate host, before they finish the development in their definitive host when the definitive host preys on the intermediate host. In intermediate-definitive host systems, two strategies of host manipulation have been evolved: increasing the rate of transmission to the definitive host by increasing the chance that the definitive host will prey on the intermediate host, or increasing the lifespan of the parasite in the intermediate host by decreasing the predation chance when the intermediate host is not yet infectious. As the second strategy is less well studied than the first, it is unknown under what conditions each of these strategies is prevailed and evolved. We analysed the effect of both strategies on the presence of parasites in intermediate-definitive host systems with a structured population model. We show that the parasite can increase the parameter space where it can persist in the intermediate-definitive host system using one of these two strategies of host manipulation. We found that when the intermediate host or the definitive host has life-history traits that allow the definitive host to reach large population densities, that is high reproduction rate of the intermediate host or high conversion efficiency of the definitive host (efficiency at which the uninfected definitive host converts caught intermediate hosts into offspring), respectively, evolving manipulation to decrease the predation chance of the intermediate host will be more beneficial than manipulation to increase the predation chance to enhance transmission. Furthermore, manipulation to decrease the predation chance of the intermediate host results in higher population densities of infected intermediate hosts than manipulation that increases the predation chance to enhance transmission. Our study shows that host manipulation in early stages of the parasite development to decrease predation might be a more frequently evolved way of host manipulation than is currently assumed.