When parasites become prey: ecological and epidemiological significance of eating parasites

Trends in Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 

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Abstract

Recent efforts to include parasites in food webs have drawn attention to a previously ignored facet of foraging ecology: parasites commonly function as prey within ecosystems. Because of the high productivity of parasites, their unique nutritional composition and their pathogenicity in hosts, their consumption affects both food-web topology and disease risk in humans and wildlife. Here, we evaluate the ecological, evolutionary and epidemiological significance of feeding on parasites, including concomitant predation, grooming, predation on free-living stages and intraguild predation. Combining empirical data and theoretical models, we show that consumption of parasites is neither rare nor accidental, and that it can sharply affect parasite transmission and food web properties. Broader consideration of predation on parasites will enhance our understanding of disease control, food web structure and energy transfer, and the evolution of complex life cycles.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title When parasites become prey: ecological and epidemiological significance of eating parasites
Series title Trends in Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1016/j.tree.2010.01.005
Volume 25
Issue 6
Year Published 2010
Language English
Publisher Cell Press
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 10 p.
First page 362
Last page 371