Dissecting the effect of a heterogeneous environment on the interaction between host and parasite fitness traits

Desiree E. Allen, Tom J. Little

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Environmental variation can alter the probability of parasitic infection or the fitness consequence of infection, and thus has the potential to dramatically alter the dynamics of host parasite coevolution. Here we investigated the effect of a changing temperature on host-parasite interactions using the crustacean Daphnia magna and its bacterial parasite Pasteuria ramosa. By reciprocally varying (1) the temperature at which exposure to parasites occurred and (2) the temperature at which within-host parasite growth occurred, and measuring several fitness-related traits, we show that while there are temperature combinations that favour either host or parasite, there are also conditions that favour neither, that is, negative fitness consequences for the host without fitness benefits for the parasite. This result highlights the importance of considering a heterogeneous rather than static environment in coevolutionary studies, while also showing support for an optimal virulence strategy in castrating parasites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-508
Number of pages10
JournalEvolutionary Ecology Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2010


  • coevolution
  • daphnia
  • genotype by environment interaction
  • pathogen
  • virulence
  • daphnia-magna
  • evolution
  • maintenance
  • population

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