The epidemiology and evolution of parasite transmission through cannibalism

Sadeh, Asaf, Northfield, Tobin D., and Rosenheim, Jay A. (2016) The epidemiology and evolution of parasite transmission through cannibalism. Ecology, 97 (8). pp. 2003-2011.

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Cannibalism is a widespread behavior, and evidence is abundant for transmission from infected victims to susceptible cannibals in many parasite–host systems. Current theory suggests that cannibalism generally impedes disease spread, because each victim is usually consumed by a single cannibal. Thus, cannibalism merely transfers pathogens from one individual to another without spreading infections to additional hosts. This assumes that cannibalism is the only mode of transmission and that the host population is homogenous. However, host developmental stages are a key determinant of both cannibal-victim and host-pathogen interactions. We suggest that multiple modes of pathogen transmission can interact through host stage structure. We show theoretically that cannibalism can enhance disease spread by consistently transferring infections from low quality to high quality hosts that are more infectious via horizontal transmission. We review empirical evidence for the generality of key conditions required for this process, and analyze the implications for the evolution of transmission through cannibalism. More generally, our theory promotes the consideration of multiple transmission pathways when studying parasite-host systems, and advances a useful intuition for assessing whether or not such pathways may be mutually augmentative.

Item ID: 45143
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1939-9170
Keywords: cannibalism; parasitism; disease
Funders: United States-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD), Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJ), United States Department of Agriculture: Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (USDA AFRI), Binational Science Foundation (BSF)
Projects and Grants: BARD Postdoctoral Award No. FI- 457- 2011 , USDA AFRI grant No. 2009-02096, BSF grant 2013-306
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2016 04:16
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310307 Population ecology @ 75%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310302 Community ecology (excl. invasive species ecology) @ 25%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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