Host migration strategy is shaped by forms of parasite transmission and infection cost

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4 Scopus citations


Most studies on the evolution of migration focus on food, mates and/or climate as factors influencing these movements, whereas negative species interactions such as predators, parasites and pathogens are often ignored. Although infection and its associated costs clearly have the potential to influence migration, thoroughly studying these interactions is challenging without a solid theoretical framework from which to develop testable predictions in natural systems. Here, we aim to understand when parasites favour the evolution of migration. We develop a general model which enables us to explore a broad range of biological conditions and to capture population and infection dynamics over both ecological and evolutionary time-scales. We show that when migration evolves depends on whether the costs of migration and infection are paid in reduced fecundity or survival. Also important are the parasite transmission mode and spatiotemporal dynamics of infection and recovery (if it occurs). Finally, we find that partial migration (where only a fraction of the population migrates) can evolve but only when parasite transmission is density-dependent. Our results highlight the critical, if overlooked, role of parasites in shaping long-distance movement patterns, and suggest that infection should be considered alongside more traditional drivers of migration in both empirical and theoretical studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1601-1612
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the CEID group at UGA for early feedback on results and anonymous reviewers for suggestions. We acknowledge the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute (MSI) at the University of Minnesota for providing resources that contributed to the research results reported within this paper ( This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DEB-1654609. S.A.B. is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


  • disease ecology
  • evolutionarily stable strategy
  • host–parasite interaction
  • mathematical model
  • movement ecology
  • pathogen infection

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