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, 142 Suppl 1 (Suppl 1), S6-S15

Evolution of Parasitism Along Convergent Lines: From Ecology to Genomics


Evolution of Parasitism Along Convergent Lines: From Ecology to Genomics

Robert Poulin et al. Parasitology.


SUMMARY From hundreds of independent transitions from a free-living existence to a parasitic mode of life, separate parasite lineages have converged over evolutionary time to share traits and exploit their hosts in similar ways. Here, we first summarize the evidence that, at a phenotypic level, eukaryotic parasite lineages have all converged toward only six general parasitic strategies: parasitoid, parasitic castrator, directly transmitted parasite, trophically transmitted parasite, vector-transmitted parasite or micropredator. We argue that these strategies represent adaptive peaks, with the similarities among unrelated taxa within any strategy extending to all basic aspects of host exploitation and transmission among hosts and transcending phylogenetic boundaries. Then, we extend our examination of convergent patterns by looking at the evolution of parasite genomes. Despite the limited taxonomic coverage of sequenced parasite genomes currently available, we find some evidence of parallel evolution among unrelated parasite taxa with respect to genome reduction or compaction, and gene losses or gains. Matching such changes in parasite genomes with the broad phenotypic traits that define the convergence of parasites toward only six strategies of host exploitation is not possible at present. Nevertheless, as more parasite genomes become available, we may be able to detect clear trends in the evolution of parasitic genome architectures representing true convergent adaptive peaks, the genomic equivalents of the phenotypic strategies used by all parasites.

Keywords: loss of functions.

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