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Competence of hosts and complex foraging behavior are two cornerstones in the dynamics of trophically transmitted parasites

In Journal of Theoretical Biology. 397:158-168


Multi-host trophically transmitted parasite (TTP) is a common life cycle where prey and predators are respectively intermediate and definitive hosts of the parasite. In these systems, the foraging response of the predator toward variations in prey community composition underlies the dynamic of the parasite. Therefore, modeling epidemiological dynamic of infectious diseases considering ecological predator–prey interactions is essential to understand the spreading of parasites in ecosystems. However, two important weaknesses of previous TTP models including feeding interaction can be pointed out: (i) the choice of a linear density-dependent contact rate is faintly realistic as it supposes an unlimited ingestion rate with an increase of prey density and (ii) considering only one host prey species prevents the study of host biodiversity effect due to change in the prey community composition where species have different competences to be infected and to transmit the parasite. This article attempts to address the dynamics of parasite in a context of multiple intermediate hosts differentiated by their competences and of complex foraging behavior of the predator. We present and analyze a deterministic one predator-two prey model, which is then used to explore the transmission cycle of the cestode Echinococcus multilocularis. This study examines the foraging condition for the co-existence of the prey, and then, based on the computation of the threshold measure of disease risk, $\mathcal{R}_0$, we show that the pattern of feeding interactions changes the relationship between disease risk and prey community composition. Finally, we disentangle the mechanism leading to the counter-intuitive observation of a decrease of disease risk while the population density of intermediate hosts increases.


epidemiological model ; predation preference ; prey diversity ; complex life cycle ; $\mathcal{R}_0$

Citation in bibtex

  title={Competence of hosts and complex foraging behavior are two cornerstones in the dynamics of trophically transmitted parasites},
  author={Baudrot, Virgile and Perasso, Antoine and Fritsch, Clémentine and Raoul, Francis},
  journal={Journal of Theoretical Biology},