Resistant invaders can convey benefits to native species

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Abstract

Introduced species are recognized as a major threat to native species. One factor that facilitates their spread is that they are often resistant to natural enemies of their native competitor. Negative effects of the invaders are often documented, but invaders may also convey benefits to the natives if they interfere with the native host-parasite interactions. If invaders act as resistant targets for the native parasites, they may reduce the density of the infectious transmission stages (‘dilution effect’) and decrease the risk of infection for the natives. We tested this hypothesis by exposing coexisting native and introduced freshwater snails to infectious stages of a native parasite. The native hosts showed a significantly reduced infection rate when exposed together with the resistant invader. A significant amount of the parasite transmission stages was wasted on the resistant invader leading to lower risk of infection for the natives. Our results show that invaders may convey benefits to the native competitors by perturbing the native host-parasite interaction and support the idea that the ‘dilution effect’ could be important for invaded communities.

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