Host Age Effects in Invertebrates: Epidemiological, Ecological, and Evolutionary Implications

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In most species, variation in age among individuals is the strongest and most visible form of phenotypic variation. Individual-level age effects on disease traits, caused by differences in the age at exposure of the host or its parents, have been widely documented in invertebrates. They can influence diverse traits, such as host susceptibility, virulence, parasite reproduction and further transmission, and may cascade to the population level, influencing disease prevalence and within-host competition. Here, I summarize what is known about the relationship between individual-level age/stage effects and infectious disease in invertebrates. I also attempt to link age effects to the theory of aging (senescence), and highlight the importance of population age structure to disease epidemiology and evolution. I conclude by identifying gaps in our understanding of individual- and population-level age effects in invertebrates. As the age structure of populations varies across space and time, age effects have strong epidemiological, ecological, and evolutionary implications for explaining variation in infectious diseases of invertebrates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-480
Number of pages15
JournalTrends in Parasitology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • age structure
  • age-dependent selection
  • demography
  • force of infection
  • senescence
  • stage structure
  • theory of aging

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Parasitology


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