Why disease ecology needs life-history theory: a host perspective
When facing an emerging infectious disease of conservation concern, we often have little
information on the nature of the host-parasite interaction to inform management decisions.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the life-history strategies of host species
can be predictive of individual- and population-level responses to infectious disease, even
without detailed knowledge on the specifics of the host-parasite interaction. Here, we argue
that a deeper integration of life-history theory into disease ecology is timely and necessary
to improve our capacity to understand, predict, and mitigate the impact of endemic and
emerging infectious diseases in wild populations. Using wild vertebrates as an example, we
show that host life-history characteristics influence host responses to parasitism at different
levels of organization, from individuals to communities. We also highlight knowledge gaps
and future directions for the study of life-history and host responses to parasitism. We
conclude by illustrating how this theoretical insight can inform the monitoring and control
of infectious diseases in wildlife.