Resetting our expectations for parasites and their effects on species interactions: a meta-analysis

Adam Z. Hasik, Daniela de Angeli Dutra, Jean François Doherty, Meghan A. Duffy, Robert Poulin, Adam M. Siepielski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Despite the ubiquitous nature of parasitism, how parasitism alters the outcome of host–species interactions such as competition, mutualism and predation remains unknown. Using a phylogenetically informed meta-analysis of 154 studies, we examined how the mean and variance in the outcomes of species interactions differed between parasitized and non-parasitized hosts. Overall, parasitism did not significantly affect the mean or variance of host–species interaction outcomes, nor did the shared evolutionary histories of hosts and parasites have an effect. Instead, there was considerable variation in outcomes, ranging from strongly detrimental to strongly beneficial for infected hosts. Trophically-transmitted parasites increased the negative effects of predation, parasites increased and decreased the negative effects of interspecific competition for parasitized and non-parasitized heterospecifics, respectively, and parasites had particularly strong negative effects on host species interactions in freshwater and marine habitats, yet were beneficial in terrestrial environments. Our results illuminate the diverse ways in which parasites modify critical linkages in ecological networks, implying that whether the cumulative effects of parasitism are considered detrimental depends not only on the interactions between hosts and their parasites but also on the many other interactions that hosts experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-199
Number of pages16
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • cannibalism
  • competition
  • herbivory
  • host–parasite
  • meta-analysis
  • meta-analysis of variance
  • mutualism
  • parasitism
  • predation
  • species interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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