The hidden faces of a biological invasion: parasite dynamics of invaders and natives.
One of the primary drivers of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) is human intervention via host or parasite translocations. A unique opportunity to study host and parasite dispersal during a bio-invasion currently exists in Ireland due to the introduction of the bank vole (Myodes glareolus) in the 1920s. The continuing range expansion of M. glareolus within Ireland presents a natural large-scale perturbation experiment. This study used the Irish M. glareolus model to conduct a spatiotemporal study analysing the parasite dynamics of native and invasive species throughout their range. Myodes glareolus and native Apodemus sylvaticus were trapped in woodlands across Ireland and surveyed for their helminth parasites. Myodes glareolus in Ireland were found to have lower parasite diversity in comparison to records of M. glareolus from across Europe and A. sylvaticus in Ireland. Increased density of M. glareolus resulted in a dilution effect, with significantly lower levels of parasitism overall in native hosts, where M. glareolus has been established longest. However, three helminth parasite species of A. sylvaticus increased in abundance in the presence of M. glareolus. Furthermore, M. glareolus at the expansion front were less parasitised (lower abundance and prevalence of certain parasites and lower parasite diversity) than M. glareolus from the core population. This "enemy release" is believed to be mediating the continued successful spread of the invader across Ireland. Our results identify two important variables, seasonality and the stage of the invasion, which should not be overlooked when investigating or managing the changing distribution of hosts and their parasites. Studies of bio-invasions and parasite transmission have primarily focused on the invasive host species or the native host species in cases where virulent pathogen spillover is observed. Our results demonstrate how the concurrent study of invasive and native hosts, and the careful identification of their parasite communities, allows the dynamic processes influencing the parasite component and intracommunity to be identified.