Host manipulation by parasites: a multidimensional phenomenon

Authors

  • Frédéric Thomas,

    1. Génétique et Evolution des Maladies Infectieuses, UMR CNRS/IRD 2724, 911 Ave. Agropolis, BP 64501, FR–34394 Montpellier cedex 5, France
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Robert Poulin,

    1. Génétique et Evolution des Maladies Infectieuses, UMR CNRS/IRD 2724, 911 Ave. Agropolis, BP 64501, FR–34394 Montpellier cedex 5, France
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jacques Brodeur

    1. Génétique et Evolution des Maladies Infectieuses, UMR CNRS/IRD 2724, 911 Ave. Agropolis, BP 64501, FR–34394 Montpellier cedex 5, France
    Search for more papers by this author

F. Thomas, Génétique et Evolution des Maladies Infectieuses, UMR CNRS/IRD 2724, 911 Ave. Agropolis, BP 64501, FR–34394 Montpellier cedex 5, France. E-mail: frthomas@mpl.ird.fr

Abstract

The diversity of ways in which parasites manipulate the phenotype of their hosts to increase their transmission has been well-documented during the past decades. Parasites clearly have the potential to alter a broad range of phenotypic traits in their hosts, extending from behaviour and colour to morphology and physiology. While the vast majority of studies have concentrated on few, often only one, host characters, there is increasing evidence that manipulative parasites alter multiple characteristics of their host's phenotype. These alterations can occur simultaneously and/or successively through time, making parasitically modified organisms undoubtedly more complex than traditionally viewed. Here, we briefly review the multidimensionality of host manipulation by parasites, discuss its possible significance and evolution, and propose directions for further research. This view should prove to be an extremely useful approach, generating a series of testable hypotheses regarding the ecology of parasitized hosts, and leading to a better comprehension of complex host–parasite relationships.

Ancillary