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BMC Ecology  2005 

Sarcocystosis of chital-dhole: conditions for evolutionary stability of a predator parasite mutualism

DOI: 10.1186/1472-6785-5-3

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Abstract:

A tolerant predator strategy and a low or moderately virulent parasite strategy which together constitute mutualism are stable only at a high frequency of recycling of parasite and a substantial prey – capture benefit to the predator. Unlike the preliminary expectation, parasite will not evolve towards reduced virulence, but reach an optimum moderate level of virulence.The available data on the behavioral ecology of dhole and chital suggest that they are likely to meet the stability criteria and therefore a predator-parasite mutualism can be stable in this system. The model also points out the gaps in the current data and could help directing further empirical work.Preferential killing of sick and disabled prey individuals by the predator has been the focus of many ecologists working with different predator – prey systems. In a variety of prey predator systems, diseased or weaker animals are shown to be consumed in greater proportion by predators [1-5]. Increased susceptibility of parasitized prey to predation, or predator preference for parasitized prey is possible under a set of conditions [6-8]. Where the prey species is an intermediate host and the predator is the definitive host for a parasite species, the capture of prey is often an essential part of the life cycle. Therefore any mechanism that makes the prey susceptible to predation would enhance the parasite fitness. In such relationships the susceptibility induced by the parasite can be very specific towards the predator host [9]. A mutualistic relationship can be said to exist between a predator and a parasite [10] if the cost of harboring the parasite is less than the benefit of greater success in catching the prey [1]. Some evidence suggestive of predator-parasite mutualism comes from dhole or Indian wild dog (Cuon alpinus) and a protozoan parasite (Sarcosystis axicuonis) with chital or spotted deer (Axis axis) as the prey-host [1,11].There can be a potential problem in such a mutualistic relationship. L

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