Shoaling guppies evade predation but have deadlier parasites

Jason C. Walsman, Mary J. Janecka, David R. Clark, Rachael D. Kramp, Faith Rovenolt, Regina Patrick, Ryan S. Mohammed, Mateusz Konczal, Clayton E. Cressler, Jessica F. Stephenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Parasites exploit hosts to replicate and transmit, but overexploitation kills both host and parasite. Predators may shift this cost–benefit balance by consuming infected hosts or changing host behaviour, but the strength of these effects remains unclear. Here we use field and lab data on Trinidadian guppies and their Gyrodactylus spp. parasites to show how differential predation pressure influences parasite virulence and transmission. We use an experimentally demonstrated virulence–transmission trade-off to parametrize a mathematical model in which host shoaling (as a means of anti-predator defence), increases contact rates and selects for higher virulence. Then we validate model predictions by collecting parasites from wild, Trinidadian populations; parasites from high-predation populations were more virulent in common gardens than those from low-predation populations. Broadly, our results indicate that reduced social contact selects against parasite virulence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)945-954
Number of pages10
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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