Tumors (re)shape biotic interactions within ecosystems: Experimental evidence from the freshwater cnidarian Hydra

Authors: Justine Boutry; Juliette Mistral; Laurent Berlioz; Alexander Klimovich; Jácint Tökölyi; Laura Fontenille; Beata Ujvari; Antoine M. Dujon; Mathieu Giraudeau; Frédéric Thomas

Source: Science of The Total Environment (AUG 2021)


While it is often assumed that oncogenic processes in metazoans can influence species interactions, empirical evidence is lacking.

Here, we use the cnidarian Hydra oligactis to experimentally explore the consequences of tumor associated phenotypic alterations for its predation ability, relationship with commensal ciliates and vulnerability to predators.

Unexpectedly, hydra’s predation ability was higher in tumorous polyps compared to non-tumorous ones. Commensal ciliates colonized preferentially tumorous hydras than non-tumorous ones, and had a higher replication rate on the former.

Finally, in a choice experiment, tumorous hydras were preferentially eaten by a fish predator. This study, for the first time, provides evidence that neoplastic growth has the potential, through effect(s) on host phenotype, to alter biotic interactions within ecosystems and should thus be taken into account by ecologists.

Graphical abstract