The parasite ecology papers that got away: Part I

There are a lot of papers that I wish I could cover on this blog. (My “To Blog” folder currently has 58 awesome papers sitting in it, just waiting to be cartoonified and posted.) Unfortunately, I only have enough time to churn out one blog post per week, and I’d like to spend those 52 posts per year on newly minted papers so that I’m staying up-to-date on the field. So, for a few weeks, I’m going to turn this blog into a dumping ground for the recent parasite ecology papers that I wish I could cover in lots of detail. I’m sure you’ll find something of interest if you look through these gems!

Symbiont invasions

I’ve previously covered ant-plant symbioses in several posts (here and here and here) because I think they’re amazing! I mean, trees defended from hungry elephants by armies of teeny ants? That’s just good cinema! But what happens in the sequel when foreign ant armies storm in and take over the native ants’ trees?

Riginos, C., M.A. Karande, D.I. Rubenstein, and T.M. Palmer. 2015. Disruption of a protective ant–plant mutualism by an invasive ant increases elephant damage to savanna trees. Ecology 96(3): 654–661.

The early parasite gets the host

In free-living ecological communities, we know that the first species to show up at a site to start reproducing and changing the habitat is often in a better position to outcompete subsequent species to arrive (=priority effects). Is that true for parasites and/or other symbionts?

Hoverman, J.T., B.J. Hoye, and P.T.J. Johnson. 2013. Does timing matter? How priority effects influence the outcome of parasite interactions within hosts. Oecologia 173:1471–1480.

Hosts are all unique, special snowflakes

We’ve talked about why heterogeneity in susceptibility to pathogen infection is important to disease dynamics on this blog before. Did I mention that the same principles apply in human pathogen systems? (Bonus: this is a pretty math paper!)

Camacho, A., et al. 2011. Explaining rapid reinfections in multiplewave influenza outbreaks: Tristan da Cunha 1971 epidemic as a case study. Proc. R. Soc. B 278: 3635–3643.

And heterogeneity in host infection rates leads to aggregated parasite distributions

Relatedly, variation in infection rates should lead to aggregation of parasites among hosts. Check out this really cool experimental study that manipulated heterogeneity in infection risk and observed resulting changes in parasite aggregation.

Johnson, P.T.J., and J.T. Hoverman. 2014. Heterogeneous hosts: how variation in host size, behaviour and immunity affects parasite aggregation. Journal of Animal Ecology 83: 1103–1112.

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