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Parasitism may alter functional response comparisons: a case study on the killer shrimp Dikerogammarus villosus and two non-invasive gammarids.

  • Iltis, Corentin
  • Spataro, Thierry
  • Wattier, Rémi
  • Médoc, Vincent
Publication Date
Mar 01, 2018
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The Ponto-Caspian freshwater amphipod Dikerogammarus villosus has colonized most of the water bodies of continental Europe where it causes strong structural alterations in recipient communities that can lead to changes in ecosystem-level processes, mainly because of a strong predatory behaviour. Most of the D. villosus populations from the invaded range have been found infected with the co-introduced microsporidian parasite Cucumispora dikerogammari, known to decrease the predation rate of its host. Infection might thus mitigate the ecological impact of D. villosus and we wanted to test this assumption using the comparative functional response approach. We compared the relationship between resource use and resource availability (i.e. the functional response, FR) of D. villosus, either with infected individuals or not, to that of two non-invasive gammarids: Gammarus pulex and Echinogammarus berilloni. With infected individuals included, D. villosus displayed a higher FR than the two non-invasive gammarids. Although this effect was not significant, C. dikerogammari infection tended to alter the FR of D. villosus with a slight decrease in attack rate and handling time, resulting in a less steep initial slope and a higher asymptote, respectively. Removing infected D. villosus from the dataset did not affect the FR comparison with G. pulex but suppressed the difference in FR with E. berilloni. Although we cannot exclude the role of sample size reduction in this effect, this suggests that C. dikerogammari infection might increase the predation pressure on local prey populations in case of species replacement between D. villosus and E. berilloni. From a more general perspective, our study illustrates how parasites may alter our capacity to predict invasive species impacts from FR comparisons.

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