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The Implications of Coevolutionary Dynamics to Host‐Parasite Interactions

Alex Best, Andy White and Mike Boots
The American Naturalist
Vol. 173, No. 6 (June 2009), pp. 779-791
DOI: 10.1086/598494
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/598494
Page Count: 13
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The Implications of Coevolutionary Dynamics to Host‐Parasite Interactions
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Abstract

Abstract: Due to the importance of infectious disease, there is a large body of theory on the evolution of either hosts or, more commonly, parasites. Here we present a fully coevolutionary model of a host‐parasite system that includes ecological dynamics that feed back into the coevolutionary outcome, and we show that highly virulent parasites may evolve due to the coevolutionary process. Parasite evolution is very sensitive to evolution in the host, and virulence fluctuates substantially when mutation rates vary between host and parasite. Evolutionary branching in the host leads to parasites increasing their virulence, and small changes in host resistance drive large changes in parasite virulence. Evolutionary branching in one species does not cause branching in the other. Our work emphasizes the importance of considering coevolutionary dynamics and shows that certain highly virulent parasites may result from responses to host evolution.

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