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Ecology

Work in the group focuses on the mathematical modelling of host-parasitoid systems in collaboration with Dr. Steve Hubbard, College of Life Sciences.

Parasitoids are a specialised class of predators that use a single prey or host for their juvenile development and unlike parasites kill the host as a result of this development. Within this lifestyle there are many variations in life history that can be highly specific to the host-parasitoid species complex under consideration. For example the developmental stage of hosts attacked can vary from eggs through larvae to adults. Endoparasitoid' eggs are ingested or injected into the host and the parasitoid develops inside the body of the host; ectoparasitoids develop attached to the outside and draw the nutrients out of the host; idiobionts kill or paralyse the host at the time of oviposition; koinobionts permit the host to continue to grow, although development may be arrested in some cases. In some species, solitary parasitoids, a single adult will eclose from a host, in gregarious species more than one ecloses, this can range from two to several thousand depending on the species. There are many additional complications such as superparasitism where the offspring of more than one conspecific adult develop with a host; multiparasitism where contraspecific offspring develop within a host and hyperparasitism where a secondary parasitoid will develop using a primary parasitoid of another host as its host. In heteronomous species males and females have different develop life histories for example developing on different host species. In some heteronomous hyperparastiod species males are known to develop as hyperparasitoid of females of their on species.

Parasitoids are of immense importance in natural and agricultural ecosystems where they influence or regulate the density of many of their hosts. Much research on parasitoids has been stimulated by their frequent success in biological control programmes. Many parasitoid species have been used to combat agricultural pests, with huge savings in both financial and human terms resulting from successful programs. The coupling of host-parasitoid dynamics (each population directly impacts on the other) makes them ideal candidates for mathematical modelling.

Key group publications:

  • Mathematical modelling of host-parasitoid systems: effects of chemically mediated parasitoid foraging strategies on within- and between-generation spatio-temporal dynamics,
    Schofield, P.G., Chaplain, M.A.J., Hubbard, S.F., J. Theor. Biol., 214: 31-47 (2002)

  • Dynamic heterogeneous spatio-temporal pattern formation in host-parasitoid systems with synchronised generations,
    Schofield, P.G., Chaplain, M.A.J., Hubbard, S.F., J. Math. Biol., 50: 559-583 (2005)

  • Evolution of searching and life history characteristics in individual-based models of host-parasitoid-microbe associations,
    Schofield, P.G., Chaplain, M.A.J., Hubbard, S.F., J. Theor. Biol., 237: 1-16 (2005)

  • Modelling the spatio-temporal dynamics of multi-species host-parasitoid interactions: heterogeneous patterns and ecological implications,
    Pearce, I.G., Chaplain, M.A.J., Schofield, P.G., Anderson, A.R.A., Hubbard, S.F., J. Theor. Biol., 241: 876-886 (2006)

  • Disease induced dynamics in host-parasitoid systems: chaos and coexistence,
    Preedy, K., Schofield, P.G., Chaplain, M.A.J., Hubbard, S.F., Roy. Soc. Interface, 4: 463-471 (2006)