Pathogens manipulate the preference of vectors, slowing disease spread in a multi-host system

Lauren G. Shoemaker, Evelyn Hayhurst, Christopher P. Weiss-Lehman, Alexander T. Strauss, Anita Porath-Krause, Elizabeth T. Borer, Eric W. Seabloom, Allison K. Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The spread of vector-borne pathogens depends on a complex set of interactions among pathogen, vector, and host. In single-host systems, pathogens can induce changes in vector preferences for infected vs. healthy hosts. Yet it is unclear if pathogens also induce changes in vector preference among host species, and how changes in vector behaviour alter the ecological dynamics of disease spread. Here, we couple multi-host preference experiments with a novel model of vector preference general to both single and multi-host communities. We show that viruliferous aphids exhibit strong preferences for healthy and long-lived hosts. Coupling experimental results with modelling to account for preference leads to a strong decrease in overall pathogen spread through multi-host communities due to non-random sorting of viruliferous vectors between preferred and non-preferred host species. Our results demonstrate the importance of the interplay between vector behaviour and host diversity as a key mechanism in the spread of vectored-diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1115-1125
Number of pages11
JournalEcology letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Shaw and Borer-Seabloom laboratory groups, three anonymous reviewers, the editor, and the theory group at the University of Minnesota for feedback which greatly improved the manuscript. Support for this work was funded by NSF IOS-1556674 and the James S. McDonnell Foundation grant 220020513.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS


  • Barley/cereal yellow dwarf virus
  • behavioural ecology
  • disease ecology
  • host diversity
  • pathogen transmission
  • vector behaviour
  • vector manipulation hypothesis
  • vector-borne disease
  • vectored disease modelling


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