The uneasy coexistence of predators and pathogens
Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 17, 2100, København Ø, Denmark
Accepted: 8 June 2020
Published online: 2 July 2020
Disease and predation are both highly important in ecology, and pathogens with multiple host species have turned out to be common. Nonetheless, the interplay between multi-host epidemics and predation has received relatively little attention. Here, we analyse a model of a predator-prey system with disease in both prey and predator populations and determine reasonable parameter values using allometric mass scaling relations. Our analysis focuses on the possibility of extinction events rather than the linear stability of the model equations, and we derive approximate relations for the parameter values at which we expect these events to occur. We find that if the predator is a specialist, epidemics frequently drive the predator species to extinction. If the predator has an additional, immune prey species, predators will usually survive. Coexistence of predator and disease is impossible in the single-prey model. We conclude that for the prey species, carrying a pathogen can be an effective weapon against predators, and that being a generalist is a major advantage for a predator in the event of an epidemic affecting the prey or both species.
Key words: Living systems: Biological networks
© The Author(s), 2020