Parasites reduce food web robustness because they are sensitive to secondary extinction as illustrated by an invasive estuarine snail

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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Abstract

A robust food web is one in which few secondary extinctions occur after removing species. We investigated how parasites affected the robustness of the Carpinteria Salt Marsh food web by conducting random species removals and a hypothetical, but plausible, species invasion. Parasites were much more likely than free-living species to suffer secondary extinctions following the removal of a free-living species from the food web. For this reason, the food web was less robust with the inclusion of parasites. Removal of the horn snail, Cerithidea californica, resulted in a disproportionate number of secondary parasite extinctions. The exotic Japanese mud snail, Batillaria attramentaria, is the ecological analogue of the native California horn snail and can completely replace it following invasion. Owing to the similarities between the two snail species, the invasion had no effect on predator–prey interactions. However, because the native snail is host for 17 host-specific parasites, and the invader is host to only one, comparison of a food web that includes parasites showed significant effects of invasion on the native community. The hypothetical invasion also significantly reduced the connectance of the web because the loss of 17 native trematode species eliminated many links.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Parasites reduce food web robustness because they are sensitive to secondary extinction as illustrated by an invasive estuarine snail
Series title Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
DOI 10.1098/rstb.2008.0220
Volume 364
Issue 1524
Year Published 2009
Language English
Publisher The Royal Society Publishing
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 5 p.
First page 1659
Last page 1663