Taking cues from ecological and evolutionary theories to expand the landscape of disgust

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Allegra Love, Alexis Heckley, Quinn Webber


1. Individual animals can attempt to prevent or mitigate parasite risks by altering their behaviour or space use. Behavioural change in response to the presence of parasites in the environment generates what is known as the “landscape of disgust” (analogous to the predator-induced “landscape of fear”). Using a spatial description of cues that indicate parasite risk, and characterizing individual responses to those cues, can allow researchers to quantify and interpret how hosts navigate the landscape of disgust. The landscape of disgust framework could facilitate much needed research on the ecological impacts of parasitism, advancing the fields of disease, spatial, and behavioural ecology.

2. Despite the potential for improving our inference of host-parasite dynamics, three key limitations of the landscape of disgust restrict the potential insight that can be gained from current research. First, many host-parasite systems will not be appropriate for invoking the landscape of disgust framework. Second, existing research has primarily focused on immediate choices made by hosts on small scales, limiting predictive power, generalizability, and the value of the insight obtained from the landscape of disgust framework. Finally, relevant ecological and evolutionary theory has not been integrated into the framework, challenging our ability to interpret and understand the application of the landscape of disgust within the context of most host-parasite systems.

3. In this review, we explore the specific requirements for implementing a landscape of disgust framework in empirical systems. We propose an expansion to the landscape of disgust framework that integrates principles from habitat selection and evolutionary theories, aiming to generate novel insight. To discuss the integration of classic ecological and evolutionary theory, we explore how the landscape of disgust varies both within and across generations, presenting opportunities for future research.

4. Despite recent interest in understanding the impact of parasitism on animal behavioural, spatial, and movement ecology, many unanswered questions remain. We build on the landscape of disgust framework by identifying weaknesses and possible applications in different ecological and evolutionary contexts. We encourage researchers to implement this framework empirically to further our understanding of host-parasite systems.




Life Sciences


Co-evolution, density-dependence, disease ecology, eco-evolutionary dynamics, Habitat selection, host-parasite dynamics, natural selection, parasite avoidance


Published: 2023-09-12 12:09


CC-By Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:
The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Data and Code Availability Statement:
There is no data or code associated with this article.

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