, Volume 715, Issue 1, pp 93–100 | Cite as

Two threats at once: encounters with predator cues alter host life-history and morphological responses to parasite spores

  • Wolfgang EngelbrechtEmail author
  • Olivia Hesse
  • Justyna Wolinska
  • Christian Laforsch


Parasites and predators are ubiquitous threats in every ecosystem. Host and prey species, respectively, have evolved effective protective mechanisms which are assumed to involve costs. In this study, we analyzed potential interactions between both threats. We exposed waterfleas (Daphnia longicephala) simultaneously to parasite spores (the yeast Metschnikowia) and cues from predatory notonectids (Notonecta glauca). In response to the parasite, D. longicephala had a delayed maturation time and produced less and smaller offspring, even though the parasite developed no spores. This suggests that hosts can successfully fight off the parasite invoking defensive costs. Some of these effects were altered or even reversed by the presence of predator cues. For example, time to maturity was further delayed when the Daphnia were exposed to both threats than under parasite stress alone. In addition, more offspring were produced in the presence of both threats, although parasites alone reduced their number. However, there was no effect of parasite exposure on the expression of morphological defenses. Our results imply that the impact of parasites on host species depends strongly on the presence of further threats. Similar types of experimental approaches may enhance our understanding of the effects of multiple stressors in natural systems.


Daphnia Metschnikowia Host–parasite Predator–prey Multiple stressors 



We thank M. Kredler and E. Ossipova for help during the experiments and the members of the Laforsch group for comments on the manuscript. This research was funded by a DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) grant to CL and JW (LA 2159/5-1). OH was funded by a research scholarship provided by the Universität Bayern e.V.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wolfgang Engelbrecht
    • 1
    Email author
  • Olivia Hesse
    • 1
  • Justyna Wolinska
    • 1
  • Christian Laforsch
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biology IILudwig-Maximilians-University MunichPlanegg-MartinsriedGermany
  2. 2.GeoBio CenterLudwig-Maximilians-University MunichMunichGermany
  3. 3.Department of Animal Ecology IUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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