Conclusions

The complexities of parasite-host interactions rival those of mutualisms. Parasites range from endoparasitic viruses to ectoparasitic ticks, and we lack an understanding of the life cycle of most parasites in organisms other than humans. What we do know is often based on models of human diseases and their modes of transmission. Parasitism can also involve complex behavioral interactions such as brood parasites or slave-making ants. As we will discuss in the next chapter, the activities of parasites can have major impacts on populations, communities, and ecosystems. Some ecologists consider parasite-host interactions the newest and least explored ecological frontier. Parasite-host interactions are much harder to study, and less obvious, than predator-prey relationships. Therefore we know little about them, and ecologists may well have been guilty of underestimating their importance.

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