Research Topic

Ecology and Evolution of Non-Consumptive Effects in Host-Parasite Interactions

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Ecologists recognize that the presence of predators or predator cues can induce changes in prey behavior, physiology and morphology (collectively termed “non-consumptive effects” or NCEs) with important consequences for prey growth, survival, and reproduction. NCEs were demonstrated to have significant, if ...

Ecologists recognize that the presence of predators or predator cues can induce changes in prey behavior, physiology and morphology (collectively termed “non-consumptive effects” or NCEs) with important consequences for prey growth, survival, and reproduction. NCEs were demonstrated to have significant, if not greater, impacts on prey compared to consumptive effects. These NCEs may in turn influence how organisms interact with other species in the community. Recently, it has been suggested that the “ecology of fear” may also apply to host-parasite interactions, although avoidance may be motivated by behavior more akin to disgust than fear. Due to the high fitness costs of parasitism, selection should favor the evolution of parasite avoidance and other pre-infection responses to parasites by hosts. Hosts can avoid exposure to infectious agents by avoiding infective stages or associated cues, avoiding infected individuals, engaging in prophylaxis, or by altering their habitat use to avoid encountering parasites. However, the ecological consequences of these NCEs remain poorly understood.

Parasite avoidance is ubiquitous among invertebrate and vertebrate hosts. Strategies for parasite avoidance, and the consequences of not doing so, are well documented. However, only a few studies address the NCEs of parasites. The most commonly documented NCEs are changes in host feeding behavior, habitat use, and time allocation between competing activities (e.g., grooming, vigilance, mating, etc.). NCEs involving changes in host physiology and morphology have received much less attention. Furthermore, these NCEs may require tradeoffs with other host traits, with potentially negative fitness effects.

The goal of this special issue is to bring together experts from different fields to highlight how parasites can have profound ecological and evolutionary consequences without even infecting hosts, i.e. NCEs. The increased attention brought to the ecology of fear or disgust by a recent review has stimulated new ways of viewing old problems.

The overarching aim of this Research Topic is to assemble manuscripts that take an experimental and/or theoretical approach to the problem. We welcome submissions on the following topics:

• Parallels between predator-induced ecology of fear and parasite-induced fear/disgust
• Empirical studies from a wide range of host and parasite taxa
• Generality and importance relative to predator avoidance responses
• Trade-offs between anti-parasite and anti-predator responses
• Impact of non-consumptive effects on the host’s interactions with other species in the community (e.g., predators, competitors)
• Role of parasite life history, host ecology, and environmental complexity in shaping the evolution of and effectiveness of parasite avoidance
• Evidence of fitness costs associated with parasite non-consumptive effects
• Other non-consumptive effects besides behavioral: e.g., morphological, physiological, with comparisons of the costs between different strategies.
• Ecological and evolutionary consequences of parasite avoidance
• Mapping landscapes of fear and disgust: can perceived infection risk be mapped in space, as with predation risk?


Keywords: ecology of disgust, ecology of fear, non-consumptive effects, trait-mediated effects, parasite avoidance


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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