Behavioral Interactions between Parasites and Hosts: Host Suicide and the Evolution of Complex Life Cycles
Smith, Deborah R.
University of Chicago Press
Scholarly/refereed, publisher version
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The study of parasites and their hosts has typically focused on the physiological, morphological, and immunological adaptations to parasitism, adaptations which the parasite employs to survive and reproduce in the host and those used by the host in self-defense. This paper explores instead some of the behavioral aspects of the parasite-host relationship. The parasite can alter the behavior of the host in ways which will facilitate dispersal of parasite propagules to new hosts or increase the amount of energy available for the parasite's growth. The host in turn can employ behavioral defense mechanisms as well as the more familiar physiological and immunological defense mechanisms. In one of the most interesting forms of behavioral defense, a host may use its own death to increase its inclusive fitness. Since some types of parasitic infections cause death or sterility of the host they also result in the host's genetic death. Although the host may be unable to affect its individual reproductive fitness it can affect its inclusive fitness. The host can change the time and nature of its death; it can "commit suicide," or behave aberrantly and increase the probability of death by predation, thus preventing the maturation of its parasite and lowering the risk of parasitic infection for other members of the host specie^. If the mature parasite would have been more likely to infect the host's kin than nonkin, the host's suicidal behavior will increase its inclusive fitness and thus have a positive selective value. I will first discuss four types of parasitic life cycles and behavioral interactions between these parasites and their hosts. The phenomenon of host suicide and situations where this phenomenon might be expected to occur will be discussed in detail. Finally, I will outline the role that host suicide may have played in the evolution of complex life cycles.
Smith, Deborah R. (1980). "Behavioral Interactions between Parasites and Hosts: Host Suicide and the Evolution of Complex Life Cycles." American Naturalist, 116(1):77-91. http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1086/283612.
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