Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, United States
Abstract: Species invasion and redistribution, driven by climate change and other anthropogenic influences, alter global biodiversity patterns and disrupt ecosystems. As host species move, they can bring their associated parasites with them, potentially infecting resident species, or leave their parasites behind, enhancing their competitive ability in their new ranges. General rules to predict why invading hosts will retain some parasites but not others are relatively unexplored, and the potential predictors are numerous, ranging from parasite life history to host community composition. In this study, we modeled parasite retention using boosted regression trees, with a suite of 25 predictors describing parasite and host community traits. We further tested the generality of our predictions by cross-validating models on data for other hosts and invasion locations. Our results show that parasite retention is non-random and predictable across hosts and invasions. It is broadly shaped by parasite type and parasite specialism, with more specialist parasites that infect many closely related hosts more likely to be retained. This trend is pronounced across parasite types; helminths, however, show a more uniform likelihood of retention regardless of specificity. Overall, we see that most parasites are not retained (11% retained), meaning many invasive species may benefit from enemy release. However, species redistribution does have the potential to spread parasites, and this also has great relevance to understanding conservation implications of species invasions. We see that specialist parasites are most likely to co-invade with their hosts, which suggests that species closely related to the invasive hosts are most likely to be affected by parasite spillover. Thus, invasions may negatively impact resident species closely related to the invasive species through both asymmetrical competition generated by enemy release and acquisition of the invader’s retained parasites, a synergy that has received relatively little attention.