Natural enemies often cause significant levels of mortality for their prey and thus can be important agents of natural selection. It follows, then, that selection should favor traits that enable organisms to escape from their natural enemies into “enemy-free space” (EFS). Natural selection for EFS was originally proposed as a general force in structuring ecological communities, but more recently has become conceptually narrow and is typically only invoked when studying the evolutionary ecology of host plant use by specialized insect herbivores. By confining the application of EFS to specialist herbivores, its potential value to community and evolutionary ecology has been marginalized. As a first step toward exploring the potential explanatory power of EFS in structuring ecological niches of higher trophic-level organisms, we consider host use by parasitoids. Here, we present three distinct mechanisms from our studies of caterpillar host—parasitoid interactions suggesting that parasitoids may be under selection to exploit traits of their hosts and the plants on which those hosts feed to garner EFS for their developing offspring. The neglect of EFS as a top—down selective force on host use by parasitoids may be a serious limitation to basic and applied ecology, given the great diversity of parasitoids and their significance in controlling herbivore populations in both natural and managed ecosystems. Parasitoids and other mesopredators represent excellent candidates for further developments of EFS theory and testing of its broader importance.
You have requested a machine translation of selected content from our databases. This functionality is provided solely for your convenience and is in no way intended to replace human translation. Neither BioOne nor the owners and publishers of the content make, and they explicitly disclaim, any express or implied representations or warranties of any kind, including, without limitation, representations and warranties as to the functionality of the translation feature or the accuracy or completeness of the translations.
Translations are not retained in our system. Your use of this feature and the translations is subject to all use restrictions contained in the Terms and Conditions of Use of the BioOne website.