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SELECTIVE PREDATION DIFFERENTIALLY MODULATES ECOLOGICAL AND EVOLUTIONARY DISEASE DYNAMICS

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posted on 2022-12-06, 22:02 authored by Stephanie O GutierrezStephanie O Gutierrez

  

Predators and parasites are critical, interconnected members of the community and have the potential to influence host populations. Predators, in particular, can have direct and indirect impacts on disease dynamics. By removing hosts and their parasites, predators alter both host and parasite populations and ultimately shape disease transmission. Our ability to accurately predict disease dynamics requires understanding the ecological effects of predation on prey and host densities and its role in the coevolution of host resistance and parasite virulence. While the impact of predators on disease dynamics has received considerable attention, research has focused on selective predation on infected prey. There is, however, substantial evidence that some predators avoid infected prey, preferentially attacking uninfected individuals. Such different strategies of prey selectivity by predators modulate host-parasite interactions, changing the fitness payoffs both for hosts and their parasites. I use empirical results and theoretical predictions as a framework to discuss the mechanisms by which predation for infected versus uninfected individuals can affect disease dynamics. First, by integrating hypotheses from behavioral ecology and disease ecology, I outlined novel perspectives that complement the prevailing view of selective predation of infected individuals (Chapter 1). Then, exploring short-term ecological outcomes and long-term host-parasite coevolution, I investigated patterns of Daphnia dentifera host population densities and host susceptibility over several generations under different types of predation pressure, including selective predation on infected and uninfected individuals (Chapter 2). Finally, building on the results of this research, I developed a high school project-based lesson plan that facilitates the instruction of the nature of science, implementing on-going ecological research in activities to improve student learning based on a constructivist approach to learning (Chapter 3). Together this research highlights the differential ecological and evolutionary outcomes of host-parasite interactions under varying community contexts.

History

Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy

Department

  • Biological Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dennis J. Minchella

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Ximena E. Bernal

Additional Committee Member 2

Catherine L. Searle

Additional Committee Member 3

Rachel A. Page

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