Ecology and Evolution of Host-Parasite Associations: Mycophagous Drosophila and Their Parasitic Nematodes

Am Nat. 2002 Oct;160 Suppl 4:S23-39. doi: 10.1086/342137.


Associations between mycophagous Drosophila and nematode parasites occur throughout the temperate and boreal regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. The nematode Howardula aoronymphium has substantial adverse effects on host survival and fertility on North American Drosophila. Long-term data show that rainy summers lead to a high prevalence of parasitism in the fall and the following spring, resulting in up to a 1-yr time lag between present rainfall and increased prevalence of H. aoronymphium parasitism. A biogeographic analysis of the relative abundance of different Drosophila species has shown that H. aoronymphium may facilitate the coexistence of different species of Drosophila that compete for larval food resources. The actual host range of parasites in nature is determined by the intrinsic suitability of potential hosts for parasite infection and reproduction and various ecological factors. For H. aoronymphium in eastern North America, intrinsically suitable hosts fall within a restricted clade within the genus Drosophila. However, the temperature sensitivity of H. aoronymphium prevents it from using several host species that occur outside the geographical range of the nematodes. Finally, the host range, virulence, and geographical range of Drosophila-parasitic nematodes appear to be highly dynamic over evolutionary timescales.