The negative effects of pathogen-infected prey on predators: a meta-analysis

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© 2016 The Authors Intra-guild predation (IGP) – where a top predator (IGPred) consumes both a basal resource and a competitor for that resource (IGPrey) – has become a fundamental part of understanding species interactions and community dynamics. IGP communities composed of intraguild predators and prey have been well studied; however, we know less about IGP communities composed of predators, pathogens, and resources. Resource quality plays an important role in community dynamics and may influence IGP dynamics as well. We conducted a meta-analysis on predator–pathogen–resource communities to determine whether resource quality mediated by the pathogen affected predator life-history traits and if these effects met the theoretical constraints of IGP communities. To do this, we summarized results from studies that investigated the use of predators and pathogens to control insect pests. In these systems, the predators are the IGPred and pathogens are the IGPrey. We found that consumer longevity, fecundity, and survival decreased by 26%, 31% and 13% respectively, when predators consumed pathogen-infected prey, making the infected prey a low quality resource. Predators also significantly preferred healthy prey over infected prey. When we divided consumers by enemy type, strict predators (e.g. wolf spiders) had no preference while parasitoids preferred healthy prey. Our results suggest that communities containing parasitoids and pathogens may rarely exhibit intraguild predation; whereas, communities composed of strict predators and pathogens are more likely dominated by IGP dynamics. In these latter communities, the consumption of low and high quality resources suggests that IGP communities composed of strict predators, pathogens and prey should naturally persist, supporting IGP theory. Synthesis We investigated how consuming pathogen-infected prey influence important life-history parameters of insect predators. Pathogens are used in a variety of biocontrol programs, especially to control crop pests. We found that true predators (i.e. wolf spiders) have no preference for healthy or infected prey and have reduced fecundity, survival and longevity consuming infected prey. However, parasitoids avoided infected prey when possible. In biocontrol programs with multiple control agents, parasitoids and pathogens would do a better job controlling pests as predators would reduce the amount of pathogen available and have reduced fitness from consuming infected prey. However, theory suggests that true predators, prey and pathogens may coexist long term.

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