Pace of life, predators and parasites: predator-induced life-history evolution in Trinidadian guppies predicts decrease in parasite tolerance

J. F. Stephenson, C. van Oosterhout, J. Cable

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A common evolutionary response to predation pressure is increased investment in reproduction, ultimately resulting in a fast life history. Theory and comparative studies suggest that short-lived organisms invest less in defence against parasites than those that are longer lived (the pace of life hypothesis). Combining these tenets of evolutionary theory leads to the specific, untested prediction that within species, populations experiencing higher predation pressure invest less in defence against parasites. The Trinidadian guppy, Poecilia reticulata, presents an excellent opportunity to test this prediction: guppy populations in lower courses of rivers experience higher predation pressure, and as a consequence have evolved faster life histories, than those in upper courses. Data from a large-scale field survey showed that fish infected with Gyrodactylus parasites were of a lower body condition (quantified using the scaled mass index) than uninfected fish, but only in lower course populations. Although the evidence we present is correlational, it suggests that upper course guppies sustain lower fitness costs of infection, i.e. are more tolerant, than lower course guppies. The data are therefore consistent with the pace of life hypothesis of parasite defence allocation, and suggest that life-history traits mediate the indirect effect of predators on the parasites of their prey.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20150806
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number11
Early online date4 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2015


  • scaled mass index
  • pace of life hypothesis
  • parasite tolerance
  • enemy ecology
  • trait-mediated indirect effects

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