Facultative virulence: A strategy to manipulate host behaviour?

Fleur Ponton, David G. Biron, Janice Moore, Anders P. Møller, Frédéric Thomas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Examples of behavioural manipulation by parasites are numerous, but the processes underlying these changes are not well characterized. From an evolutionary point of view, behavioural changes in infected hosts have often been interpreted as illustrations of the extended phenotype concept, in which genes in one organism (the parasite) have phenotypic effects on another organism (the host). Here, we approach the problem differently, suggesting that hosts, by cooperating with manipulative parasites rather than resisting them, might mitigate fitness costs associated with manipulation. By imposing extra fitness costs on their hosts in the absence of compliance, parasites theoretically have the potential to select for cooperative behaviour by their hosts. Although this 'mafia-like' strategy remains poorly documented, we believe that it has substantial potential to resolve issues specific to the evolution of behavioural alterations induced by parasites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalBehavioural Processes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Extended phenotype
  • Mafia-like strategy
  • Manipulation
  • Parasite
  • Virulence


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