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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Sarcocystosis of chital-dhole: conditions for evolutionary stability of a predator parasite mutualism

Maithili M Jog1 and Milind G Watve12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology, Abasaheb Garware College, Karve Road, Pune 411 004, India

2 Life Research Foundation 10, Pranav, 1000/6-c Navi Peth, Pune 411 030, India

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BMC Ecology 2005, 5:3  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-5-3

Published: 22 February 2005

Abstract

Background

For parasites with a predator-prey life cycle, the completion of the life cycle often depends on consumption of parasitized prey by the predator. In the case of such parasite species the predator and the parasite have common interests and therefore a mutualistic relationship is possible. Some evidence of a predator-parasite mutualism was reported from spotted deer or chital (Axix axis) as a prey species, dhole or Indian wild-dog (Cuon alpinus) as the predator and a protozoan (Sarcocystis axicuonis) as the parasite. We examine here, with the help of a model, the ecological conditions necessary for the evolution and stability of such a mutualistic relationship. A two – level game theory model was designed in which the payoff of a parasite is decided not only by alternative parasite strategies but also by alternative host strategies and vice versa. Conditions for ESS were examined.

Results

A tolerant predator strategy and a low or moderately virulent parasite strategy which together constitute mutualism are stable only at a high frequency of recycling of parasite and a substantial prey – capture benefit to the predator. Unlike the preliminary expectation, parasite will not evolve towards reduced virulence, but reach an optimum moderate level of virulence.

Conclusion

The available data on the behavioral ecology of dhole and chital suggest that they are likely to meet the stability criteria and therefore a predator-parasite mutualism can be stable in this system. The model also points out the gaps in the current data and could help directing further empirical work.