Parasite-mediated selection and the role of sex and diapause in Daphnia

A. B. Duncan, S. E. Mitchell, T. J. Little

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To gain insight into parasite-mediated natural selection, we studied a natural population of the crustacean Daphnia magna during a severe epidemic of the bacterial parasite Pasteuria ramosa. We also investigated the relationship between susceptibility and the production of resting eggs, which are only produced during the sexual phase of reproduction. Live host samples were taken before and after this epidemic and resistance to P. ramosa was examined in the laboratory. Host clones collected after the epidemic were more resistant to P. ramosa than were those collected pre-epidemic, which is consistent with parasite-mediated selection. in our study population, asexually reproducing females were observed across the entire study period, but females carrying resting eggs were observed only prior to the epidemic. For hosts isolated in this pre-epidemic period, we found evidence that those carrying resting eggs (at the time of collection) were more susceptible than those that were reproducing asexually. This was especially apparent for measures of parasite growth, although not all measures of infection success conclusively supported this pattern. Nevertheless, the data suggest that some genotypes invest heavily in diapause at the expense of immunocompetence. Sex could therefore inhibit the evolution of resistance because each spring new genotypes will hatch from resting eggs that are relatively susceptible as they were not exposed to the previous years bout of parasite-mediated selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1183-1189
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2006


  • Epidemic
  • evolution
  • natural selction
  • Pasteuria ramosa
  • resistance
  • resting-egg;

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