Crowding does not affect monarch butterflies’ resistance to a protozoan parasite

Wajd Alaidrous, Scott M. Villa, Jacobus C. de Roode, Ania A. Majewska*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Host density is an important factor when it comes to parasite transmission and host resistance. Increased host density can increase contact rate between individuals and thus parasite transmission. Host density can also cause physiological changes in the host, which can affect host resistance. Yet, the direction in which host density affects host resistance remains unresolved. It is also unclear whether food limitation plays a role in this effect. We investigated the effect of larval density in monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus, on the resistance to their natural protozoan parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha under both unlimited and limited food conditions. We exposed monarchs to various density treatments as larvae to mimic high densities observed in sedentary populations. Data on infection and parasite spore load were collected as well as development time, survival, wing size, and melanization. Disease susceptibility under either food condition or across density treatments was similar. However, we found high larval density impacted development time, adult survival, and wing morphology when food was limited. This study aids our understanding of the dynamics of environmental parasite transmission in monarch populations, which can help explain the increased prevalence of parasites in sedentary monarch populations compared to migratory populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere8791
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • density-dependent transmission
  • environmental transmission
  • host population density
  • host–parasite interaction
  • larval density

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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