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Emergent fungal entomopathogen does not alter density dependence in a viral competitor

Formally Refereed
Authors: Andrew M. Liebhold, Ruth Plymale, Joseph S. Elkinton, Ann E. Hajek
Year: 2013
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Ecology. 94(6). 1217-1222.


Population cycles in forest Lepidoptera often result from recurring densitydependent epizootics of entomopathogens. While these systems are typically dominated by a single pathogen species, insects are often infected by multiple pathogens, yet little is known how pathogens interact to affect host dynamics. The apparent invasion of northeastern North America by the fungal entomopathogen Entomophaga maimaiga some time prior to 1989 provides a unique opportunity to evaluate such interactions. Prior to the arrival of E. maimaga, the oscillatory dynamics of host gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar, populations were apparently driven by epizootics of a nucleopolyhedrovirus. Subsequent to its emergence, E. maimaiga has caused extensive mortality in host populations, but little is known about how it has altered multigenerational dynamics of the gypsy moth and its virus. Here we compared demographic data collected in gypsy moth populations prior to vs. after E. maimaiga's invasion. We found that the recently invading fungal pathogen virtually always causes greater levels of mortality in hosts than does the virus, but fungal mortality is largely density independent. Moreover, the presence of the fungus has apparently not altered the gypsy moth– virus density-dependent interactions that were shown to drive periodic oscillations in hosts before the arrival of the fungus.


competition, density dependence, Entomophaga maimaiga, gypsy moth, host–pathogen dynamics, Lepidoptera, Lymantria dispar, nucleopolyhedrovirus, pathogens


Liebhold, Andrew M.; Plymale, Ruth; Elkinton, Joseph S.; Hajek, Ann E. 2013. Emergent fungal entomopathogen does not alter density dependence in a viral competitor. Ecology. 94(6). 1217-1222.