Parasites and Food Webs

Principal Investigator(s): 

Kevin Lafferty


A children's book on ecology introduces food webs by revealing that
lions eat zebras and zebras eat grass. "Who eats lions?" an impudent
child might ask. Fecal exams from 33 Serengeti lions reveal the eggs or
cysts of 20 parasite species, but these are not in the children's book,
nor do parasites commonly find a place in studies of food webs.
Considering that parasitism is the most popular lifestyle on Earth,
there is concern that food webs may not be complete without parasites.
This working group brings together a range of experts on parasitism,
food web theory, and empirical food webs to consider how to move ecology
forward with parasites. It will include developing theoretical food
webs capable of considering parasites, investigate, in detail, the few
food webs with parasites, and consider how ecologists can incorporate
parasites into future food web studies. The results will provide a more
complete view of nature as well as provide insight into better controls
for infectious disease.

Project Page