Genetic variation in a host-parasite association: potential for coevolution and frequency-dependent selection

Evolution. 2001 Jun;55(6):1136-45. doi: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2001.tb00633.x.


Models of host-parasite coevolution assume the presence of genetic variation for host resistance and parasite infectivity, as well as genotype-specific interactions. We used the freshwater crustacean Daphnia magna and its bacterial microparasite Pasteuria ramosa to study genetic variation for host susceptibility and parasite infectivity within each of two populations. We sought to answer the following questions: Do host clones differ in their susceptibility to parasite isolates? Do parasite isolates differ in their ability to infect different host clones? Are there host clone-parasite isolate interactions? The analysis revealed considerable variation in both host resistance and parasite infectivity. There were significant host clone-parasite isolate interactions, such that there was no single host clone that was superior to all other clones in the resistance to every parasite isolate. Likewise, there was no parasite isolate that was superior to all other isolates in infectivity to every host clone. This form of host clone-parasite isolate interaction indicates the potential for coevolution based on frequency-dependent selection. Infection success of original host clone-parasite isolate combinations (i.e., those combinations that were isolated together) was significantly higher than infection success of novel host clone-parasite isolate combinations (i.e., those combinations that were created in the laboratory). This finding is consistent with the idea that parasites track specific host genotypes under natural conditions. In addition, correspondence analysis revealed that some host clones, although distinguishable with neutral genetic markers, were susceptible to the same set of parasite isolates and thus probably shared resistance genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Daphnia / genetics*
  • Daphnia / microbiology
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Germany
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / physiology
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / genetics*
  • Reproduction
  • Russia
  • Selection, Genetic*