Co-evolutionary dynamics of a social parasite-host interaction model: Obligate versus facultative social parasitism

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10 Scopus citations


Host-parasite co-evolution can have profound impacts on a wide range of ecological and evolutionary processes, including population dynamics, the maintenance of genetic diversity, and the evolution of recombination. To examine the co-evolution of quantitative traits in hosts and parasites, we present and study a co-evolutionary model of a social parasite-host system that incorporates (i) ecological dynamics that feed back into their co-evolutionary outcomes; (ii) variation in whether the social parasite is obligate or facultative; and (iii) Holling Type II functional responses between host and social parasite, which are particularly suitable for social parasites that face time costs for host location and its social manipulation. We perform local and global analyses for the co-evolutionary model and the corresponding ecological model. In the absence of evolution, our ecological model analyses imply that an extremely small value of the death rate for facultative social parasites can drive a host extinct globally under certain conditions, while an extremely large value of the death rate can drive the parasite extinct globally. The facultative parasite system can have one, two, or three coexistence equilibria, while the obligate parasite system can have either one or three coexistence equilibria. Multiple coexistence equilibria result in rich dynamics with multiple attractors. The ecological system, in particular, can exhibit bi-stability between the facultative parasite-only equilibrium and the coexistence equilibrium when it has two coexistence equilibria. Our analysis on the co-evolutionary model provides important insights on how co-evolution can change the ecological and evolutionary outcomes of host-parasite interactions. Our findings suggest that: (i) The host and parasite can select different strategies that may result in local extinction of host or parasite. These strategies can have convergence stability (CS), but may not be evolutionary stable strategies (ESS); (ii) The host and its facultative (or obligate) parasite can have ESS that drive the host (or the obligate parasite) extinct locally; (iii) The dependence of vital rates on the phenotypic trait plays an important role in the CS of both exclusion and coexistence equilibria, as well as their ESS; and (iv) A small variance in the trait difference that measures parasitism efficiency can destabilize the co-evolutionary system, and generate evolutionary arms-race dynamics with different host-parasite fluctuating patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-455
Number of pages58
JournalNatural Resource Modeling
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2015


  • Bistability
  • Evolutionary game theory
  • Evolutionary stable strategy
  • Facultative/obligate parasite
  • Holling Type II functional response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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