Diseased Social Predators
|Hilker, Frank M.
|Behavioral ecology; BIOLOGICAL-CONTROL; Biology; DYNAMICS; Eco-epidemiology; ERADICATION; EXTINCTION; Foraging facilitation; Group living; Hunting cooperation; INFECTIOUS-DISEASES; Life Sciences & Biomedicine - Other Topics; Mathematical & Computational Biology; Mathematical model; OSCILLATIONS; POPULATION; PREY MODEL; SIZE; TRANSMISSION
|BULLETIN OF MATHEMATICAL BIOLOGY
Social predators benefit from cooperation in the form of increased hunting success, but may be at higher risk of disease infection due to living in groups. Here, we use mathematical modeling to investigate the impact of disease transmission on the population dynamics benefits provided by group hunting. We consider a predator-prey model with foraging facilitation that can induce strong Allee effects in the predators. We extend this model by an infectious disease spreading horizontally and vertically in the predator population. The model is a system of three nonlinear differential equations. We analyze the equilibrium points and their stability as well as one-and two-parameter bifurcations. Our results show that weakly cooperating predators go unconditionally extinct for highly transmissible diseases. By contrast, if cooperation is strong enough, the social behavior mediates conditional predator persistence. The system is bistable, such that small predator populations are driven extinct by the disease or a lack of prey, and large predator populations survive because of their cooperation even though they would be doomed to extinction in the absence of group hunting. We identify a critical cooperation level that is needed to avoid the possibility of unconditional predator extinction. We also investigate how transmissibility and cooperation affect the stability of predator-prey dynamics. The introduction of parasites may be fatal for small populations of social predators that decline for other reasons. For invasive predators that cooperate strongly, biocontrol by releasing parasites alone may not be sufficient.
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