Hosts have two general strategies for mitigating the fitness costs of parasite exposure and infection: resistance and tolerance. The resistance-tolerance framework has been well developed in plant systems, but only recently has it been applied to animal-parasite interactions. However, difficulties associated with estimating fitness, controlling parasite exposure, and quantifying parasite burden have limited application of this framework to animal systems. Here, we used an experimental approach to quantify the relative influence of variation among host individuals and genetic families in determining resistance and tolerance within an amphibian-trematode system. Importantly, we used multiple, alternative metrics to assess each strategy, and employed a Bayesian analytical framework to compare among responses while incorporating uncertainty. Relative to unexposed hosts, exposure to the pathogenic trematode (Ribeiroia ondatrae) reduced the survival and growth of California newts (Taricha torosa) (survival: 93% vs. 74%; growth: 0.29 vs. −0.5 vs mm day −1 ). Similarly, parasite infection success (the inverse of resistance) ranged from 8% to 100%. Yet despite this broad variation in host resistance and tolerance among individual newts, we found no evidence for transmissable, among-family variation in any of the resistance or tolerance metrics. This suggests that opportunities for evolution of these traits is limited, likely requiring significant increases in mutation, gene flow, or environmental heterogeneity. Our study provides a quantitative framework for evaluating the importance of alternative metrics of resistance and tolerance across multiple time points in the study of host-parasite interactions in animal systems.
Stutz, W. E., Calhoun, D. M., & Johnson, P. T. J. (2019). Resistance and tolerance: A hierarchical framework to compare individual versus family-level host contributions in an experimental amphibian-trematode system. Experimental Parasitology, 199, 80–91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exppara.2019.03.001