Behavioural mechanisms underlying parasite-mediated competition for refuges in a coral reef fish
Date of Original Version
Natural Resources Science
Parasites have been increasingly recognized as participants in indirect ecological interactions, including those mediated by parasite-induced changes to host behaviour (trait-mediated indirect interactions or TMIIs). In most documented examples, host behaviours altered by parasites increase susceptibility to predation because the predator is also a host (host-manipulation). Here, we test for a TMII in which a parasitic copepod modifies the predator-prey interaction between a small goby host and several larger predatory fish. Gobies compete for crevices in the reef to avoid predation and goby mortality increases more rapidly with increasing refuge shortage for parasitized gobies than for those free of parasites. We found interactive effects of refuge shortage and parasitism on two behaviours we predicted might be associated with parasite-mediated competition for refuges. First, as refuge-shortage increases, the rate of aggression among gobies increases and parasitism intensifies this interaction. Second, goby proximity to refuges increases as refuges become scarce, but parasitism nullifies this increase. In combination, these parasite-induced changes in behaviour may explain why parasitized gobies are poor competitors for refuges. Because the parasite is not trophically transmitted via host manipulation, these altered behaviours in parasitized gobies are likely coincidental to infection.
Forrester, G.E., Chille, E., Nickles, K. et al. Behavioural mechanisms underlying parasite-mediated competition for refuges in a coral reef fish. Sci Rep 9, 15487 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-52005-y
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