Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Parasites and marine invasions: ecological and evolutionary perspectives.

Abstract

Worldwide, marine and coastal ecosystems are heavily invaded by introduced species and the potential role of parasites in the success and impact of marine invasions has been increasingly recognized. In this review, we link recent theoretical developments in invasion ecology with empirical studies from marine ecosystems in order to provide a conceptual framework for studying the role of parasites and their hosts in marine invasions. Based on an extensive literature search, we identified six mechanisms in which invaders directly or indirectly affect parasite and host populations and communities: (I) invaders can lose some or all of their parasites during the invasion process (parasite release or reduction), often causing a competitive advantage over native species; (II) invaders can also act as a host for native parasites, which may indirectly amplify the parasite load of native hosts (parasite spillback); (III) invaders can also be parasites themselves and be introduced without needing co-introduction of the host (introduction of free-living infective stages); (IV) alternatively, parasites may be introduced together with their hosts (parasite co-introduction with host); (V) consequently, these co-introduced parasites can sometimes also infect native hosts (parasite spillover); and (VI) invasive species may be neither a host nor a parasite, but nevertheless affect native parasite host interactions by interfering with parasite transmission (transmission interference). We discuss the ecological and evolutionary implications of each of these mechanisms and generally note several substantial effects on natural communities and ecosystems via (i) mass mortalities of native populations creating strong selection gradients, (ii) indirect changes in species interactions within communities and (iii) trophic cascading and knock-on effects in food webs that may affect ecosystem function and services. Our review demonstrates a wide range of ecological and evolutionary implications of marine invasions for parasite-host interactions and suggests that parasite-mediated impacts should be integrated in assessing the risks and consequences of biological invasions.