Comparative dynamics of three models for host-parasitoid interactions in a patchy environment

Liebe F. Cavalieri, Huseyin Kocak

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2 Scopus citations


Phenomenological models represent a simplified approach to the study of complex systems such as host-parasitoid interactions. In this paper we compare the dynamics of three phenomenological models for host-parasitoid interactions developed by May (1978), May and Hassell (198l) and May et al. (1981). The essence of the paper by May and Hassell (1981) was to define a minimum number of parameters that would describe the interactions, avoiding the technical difficulties encountered when using models that involve many parameters, yet yielding a system of equations that could capture the essence of real world interactions in patchy environments. Those studies dealt primarily with equilibrium and coexistence phenomena. Here we study the dynamics through bifurcation analysis and phase portraits in a much wider range of parameter values, carrying the models beyond equilibrium states. We show that the dynamics can be either stable or chaotic depending on the location of a damping term in the equations. In the case of the stable system, when host density dependence acts first, a stable point is reached, followed by a closed invariant curve in phase space that first increases then decreases, finally returning to an asymptotically stable point. Chaos is not seen. On the other hand, when parasitoid attack occurs before host density dependence, chaos is inevitably apparent. We show, as did May et al. (1981) and stated earlier by Wang and Gutierrez (1980), that the sequence of events in host-parasitoid interactions is crucial in determining their stability. In a chaotic state the size of the host (e.g., insect pests) population becomes unpredictable, frequently becoming quite large, a biologically undesirable outcome. From a mathematical point of view the system is of interest because it reveals how a Strategically placed damping term can dramatically alter the outcome. Our study, reaching beyond equilibrium states, suggests a strategy for biological control different from that of May et al. (1981).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-155
Number of pages15
JournalBulletin of Mathematical Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Immunology
  • Mathematics(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Pharmacology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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