Interspecific host competition and parasite virulence evolution

Adam Z. Hasik, Kayla C. King, Hadas Hawlena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Virulence, the harm to hosts caused by parasite infection, can be selected for by several ecological factors acting synergistically or antagonistically. Here, we focus on the potential for interspecific host competition to shape virulence through such a network of effects. We first summarize how host natural mortality, body mass changes, population density and community diversity affect virulence evolution. We then introduce an initial conceptual framework highlighting how these host factors, which change during host competition, may drive virulence evolution via impacts on life-history trade-offs. We argue that the multi-faceted nature of both interspecific host competition and virulence evolution still requires consideration and experimentation to disentangle contrasting mechanisms. It also necessitates a differential treatment for parasites with various transmission strategies. However, such a comprehensive approach focusing on the role of interspecific host competition is essential to understand the processes driving the evolution of virulence in a tangled bank.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20220553
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - 3 May 2023


  • host-parasite interactions
  • interspecific competition
  • specialist-generalist trade-off
  • virulence evolution
  • virulence-recovery trade-off
  • virulence-transmission trade-off

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Interspecific host competition and parasite virulence evolution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this