Interactions among interactions: The dynamical consequences of antagonism between mutualists

Kelsey M. Yule, Christopher A. Johnson, Judith L. Bronstein, Régis Ferrière

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Species often interact with multiple mutualistic partners that provide functionally different benefits and/or that interact with different life-history stages. These functionally different partners, however, may also interact directly with one another in other ways, indirectly altering net outcomes and persistence of the mutualistic system as a whole. We present a population dynamical model of a three-species system involving antagonism between species sharing a mutualist partner species with two explicit life stages. We find that, regardless of whether the antagonism is predatory or non-consumptive, persistence of the shared mutualist is possible only under a restrictive set of conditions. As the rate of antagonism between the species sharing the mutualist increases, indirect rather than direct interactions increasingly determine species’ densities and sometimes result in complex, oscillatory dynamics for all species. Surprisingly, persistence of the mutualistic system is particularly dependent upon the degree to which each of the two mutualistic interactions is specialized. Our work investigates a novel mechanism by which changing ecological conditions can lead to extinction of mutualist partners and provides testable predictions regarding the interactive roles of mutualism and antagonism in net outcomes for species’ densities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110334
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - Sep 21 2020


  • Indirect effects
  • Non-consumptive effects
  • Predator-prey
  • Press perturbation
  • Stage-structured population dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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