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Lesser of Two Evils? Foraging Choices in Response to Threats of Predation and Parasitism

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journal contribution
posted on 21.05.2021, 16:02 by Janet Koprivnikar, Laura Penalva
Predators have documented post-encounter (density-mediated) effects on prey but their pre-encounter impacts, including behavioural alterations, can be substantial as well. While it is increasingly evident that this “ecology of fear” is important to understand for natural enemy-victim relationships, fear responses of hosts to the threat of infection by a parasite are relatively unknown. We examined larval amphibian (Lithobates pipiens) foraging choices by experimentally manipulating the presence of cues relating to predator (larval odonate) or parasite (the trematode Ribeiroia ondatrae) threats. Tadpoles avoided foraging where predator or parasite cues were present; however, they did not treat these as equal hazards. When both threats were simultaneously present, tadpoles strongly preferred to forage under the threat of parasitism compared to predation, likely driven by their relative lethality in our study. Our results indicate that altered spatial use is an important anti-parasite behaviour, and demonstrate that parasite avoidance can affect foraging in a manner similar to predators, warranting greater study of the pre-encounter effects of this enemy type.




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