The negative effects of pathogen-infected prey on predators: a meta-analysis


Intra-guild predation (IGP) – where a top predator (IGPred) consumes both a basal resource and a competitor for that resource (IGPrey) – has become a fundamental part of understanding species interactions and community dynamics. IGP communities composed of intraguild predators and prey have been well studied; however, we know less about IGP communities composed of predators, pathogens, and resources. Resource quality plays an important role in community dynamics and may influence IGP dynamics as well. We conducted a meta-analysis on predator–pathogen–resource communities to determine whether resource quality mediated by the pathogen affected predator life-history traits and if these effects met the theoretical constraints of IGP communities. To do this, we summarized results from studies that investigated the use of predators and pathogens to control insect pests. In these systems, the predators are the IGPred and pathogens are the IGPrey. We found that consumer longevity, fecundity, and survival decreased by 26%, 31% and 13% respectively, when predators consumed pathogen-infected prey, making the infected prey a low quality resource. Predators also significantly preferred healthy prey over infected prey. When we divided consumers by enemy type, strict predators (e.g. wolf spiders) had no preference while parasitoids preferred healthy prey. Our results suggest that communities containing parasitoids and pathogens may rarely exhibit intraguild predation; whereas, communities composed of strict predators and pathogens are more likely dominated by IGP dynamics. In these latter communities, the consumption of low and high quality resources suggests that IGP communities composed of strict predators, pathogens and prey should naturally persist, supporting IGP theory.

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Miguel Acevedo
Miguel Acevedo
Assistant Professor of Quantitative Wildlife Population Ecology

My research interests include global change, lizard malaria, and quantitative applications for conservation planning.