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Various predator-prey, host-pathogen, and competitive interactions can combine to cause density dependence in population growth. Despite this possibility, most empirical tests for density-dependent interactions have focused on single mechanisms. Here we tested the hypothesis that two mechanisms of density dependence, parasitism and a shortage of refuges, jointly influence the strength of density-dependent mortality. We used mark recapture analysis to estimate mortality of the host species, the bridled goby {Coryphopterus glaucofraenum). Sixty-three marked gobies were infected with a copepod gill parasite {Pharodes tortugensis), and 188 were uninfected. We used the spatial scale at which gobies were clustered naturally (~4 m2) as an ecologically relevant neighborhood and measured goby density and the availability of refuges from predators within each goby's neighborhood. Goby survival generally declined with increasing density, and this decline was steeper for gobies with access to few refuges than for gobies in neighborhoods where refuges were common. The negative effects of high density and refuge shortage were also more severe for parasitized gobies than for gobies free of parasites. This parasite has characteristics typical of emerging diseases and appears to have altered the strength of a preexisting density-dependent interaction.

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© 2006 by the Ecological Society of America