Resource availability can significantly alter host–parasite dynamics. Abundant food can provide more resources for hosts to resist infections, but also increase host tolerance of infections by reducing competition between hosts and parasites for food. Whether abundant food favors host resistance or tolerance (or both) might depend on the type of resource that the parasite exploits (e.g., host tissue vs. food), which can vary based on the stage of infection. In our study, we evaluated how low and high resource diets affect Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) resistance and tolerance of a skin-penetrating, gut nematode Aplectana sp. at each stage of the infection. Compared to a low resource diet, a high resource diet enhanced frog resistance to worm penetration and tolerance while worms traveled to the gut. In contrast, a low resource diet increased resistance to establishment of the infection. After the infection established and worms could access food resources in the gut, a high resource diet enhanced host tolerance of parasites. On a high resource diet, parasitized frogs consumed significantly more food than non-parasitized frogs; when food was then restricted, mass of non-parasitized frogs did not change, whereas mass of parasitized frogs decreased significantly. Thus, a high resource diet increased frog tolerance of established worms because frogs could fully compensate for energy lost to the parasites. Our study shows that host–parasite dynamics are influenced by the effect of resource availability on host resistance and tolerance, which depends on when parasites have access to food and the stage of infection.
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We thank Jeb Owen for advice on the immunoassay protocol. This research was supported by Grants from the National Science Foundation (EF-1241889), National Institutes of Health (R01GM109499, R01TW010286), US Department of Agriculture (NRI 2006-01370, 2009-35102-0543), and US Environmental Protection Agency (CAREER 83518801) to JRR and British Ecological Society Large Research Grant (5599-6643) to SAK. CNO was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. QCW was supported by the Leadership Alliance Summer Research Early Identification Program.
Author contribution statement
SAK and CLW conceived the study and designed the experiments. CLW, SAK, QCW, and CNO conducted the experiments. SAK and JRR conducted the statistical analyses and wrote the manuscript.
Conflict of interest
All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Communicated by Jean-François Le Galliard.
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Knutie, S.A., Wilkinson, C.L., Wu, Q.C. et al. Host resistance and tolerance of parasitic gut worms depend on resource availability. Oecologia 183, 1031–1040 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-017-3822-7
- Disease dynamics
- Host defense