Species' Life-History Traits Explain Interspecific Variation in Reservoir Competence: A Possible Mechanism Underlying the Dilution Effect

<div><p>Hosts species for multi-host pathogens show considerable variation in the species' reservoir competence, which is usually used to measure species' potential to maintain and transmit these pathogens. Although accumulating research has proposed a trade-off between life-history strategies and immune defences, only a few studies extended this to host species' reservoir competence. Using a phylogenetic comparative approach, we studied the relationships between some species' life-history traits and reservoir competence in three emerging infectious vector-borne disease systems, namely Lyme disease, West Nile Encephalitis (WNE) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). The results showed that interspecific variation in reservoir competence could be partly explained by the species' life histories. Species with larger body mass (for hosts of Lyme disease and WNE) or smaller clutch size (for hosts of EEE) had a higher reservoir competence. Given that both larger body mass and smaller clutch size were linked to higher extinction risk of local populations, our study suggests that with decreasing biodiversity, species with a higher reservoir competence are more likely to remain in the community, and thereby increase the risk of transmitting these pathogens, which might be a possible mechanism underlying the dilution effect.</p> </div>