Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Competition and facilitation among fungal plant parasites affect their life-history traits


Dutt, Agathe et al. (2021), Competition and facilitation among fungal plant parasites affect their life-history traits, Dryad, Dataset,


Multi-infections may result in either competitive exclusion or coexistence on the same host of pathogen genotypes belonging to the same or different species. Epidemiological consequences of multiple infections, particularly how the development and transmission of a pathogen can be modified by the presence of another pathogen, are well documented. However, understanding how life history strategies of each pathogen modulate co-infection outcomes remains quite elusive. To analyze how co-infection drives changes in life history traits and affects co-existence in epidemic pathogens, we infected detached pea stipules with two fungal species, Peyronellaea pinodes and Phoma medicaginis var. pinodella (considering 2 strains per species), part of the ascochyta blight complex but presenting different life history strategies. All pairwise combinations (including self-pairs) between two strains of each species were tested. Strains were inoculated simultaneously, but apart from one another on the stipule. For each strain, four life history traits were measured: incubation period, necrosis area 6 days after inoculation, latent period and offspring production. Results show that, in co-infection, when resources are highly allocated to lesion development, the time between inoculation and the appearance of reproduction structures (latent period) and offspring production decreased, and vice -versa relative to single infections. The direction and/or magnitude of these responses to co-infection depend on the co-infecting strains. Moreover, these changes were always higher in self-pairs than in mixed co-infections. These results suggest facilitation between co-infecting strains, resulting in the selection of an intermediate level of virulence (here measured as the lesion development) at the expense of pathogen offspring production. This strategy allows the development and reproduction of each co-infecting strain when sharing limited resources. However, the direction and strength of these life history traits variations in co-infection depend on the life history strategy of the co-infecting strains, with a clear difference between ‘opportunists’, ‘scavengers’ and ‘pioneer colonisers’.