Heterogenous interspecific interactions in a host-parasite system

J. A. Jackson*, R. J. Pleass, J. Cable, J. E. Bradley, R. C. Tinsley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Macroparasites of vertebrates usually occur in multi-species communities, producing infections whose outcome in individual hosts or host populations may depend on the dynamics of interactions amongst the different component species. Within a single co-infection, competition can occur between conspecific and heterospecific parasite individuals, either directly or via the host's physiological and immune responses. We studied a natural single-host, multi-parasite model infection system (polystomes in the anuran Xenopus laevis victorianus) in which the parasite species show total interspecific competitive exclusion as adults in host individuals. Multi-species infection experiments indicated that competitive outcomes were dependent on infection species composition and strongly influenced by the intraspecific genetic identity of the interacting organisms. Our results also demonstrate the special importance of temporal heterogeneity (the sequence of infection by different species) in competition and co-existence between parasite species and predict that developmental plasticity in inferior competitors, and the induction of species-specific host resistance, will partition the within-host-individual habitat over time. We emphasise that such local (within-host) context-dependent processes are likely to be a fundamental determinant of population dynamics in multi-species parasite assemblages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1341-1349
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2006


  • Co-existence
  • Competition
  • Genetics
  • Heterogeneity
  • Host
  • Interference
  • Parasite
  • Protopolystoma

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