Host behaviour and exposure risk in an insect–pathogen interaction

Authors

  • Benjamin J. Parker,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolution, The University of Chicago, 1101 E. 57th St, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
    2. Program in Population Biology, Ecology, and Evolution, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA
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  • Bret D. Elderd,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolution, The University of Chicago, 1101 E. 57th St, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
    2. Department of Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
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  • Greg Dwyer

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Ecology and Evolution, The University of Chicago, 1101 E. 57th St, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
      Correspondence author. E-mail: gdwyer@uchicago.edu
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Correspondence author. E-mail: gdwyer@uchicago.edu

Summary

1. Studies of variability in host resistance to disease generally emphasize variability in susceptibility given exposure, neglecting the possibility that hosts may vary in behaviours that affect the risk of exposure.

2. In many insects, horizontal transmission of baculoviruses occurs when larvae consume foliage contaminated by the cadavers of virus-infected conspecific larvae; so, host behaviour may have a strong effect on the risk of infection.

3. We studied variability in the behaviour of gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) larvae, which are able to detect and avoid virus-contaminated foliage.

4. Our results show that detection ability can be affected by the family line that larvae originate from, even at some distance from a virus-infected cadaver, and suggest that cadaver-detection ability may be heritable.

5. There is thus the potential for natural selection to act on cadaver-detection ability, and thereby to affect the dynamics of pathogen-driven cycles in gypsy moth populations.

6. We argue that host behaviour is a neglected component in studies of variability in disease resistance.

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