Antagonistic coevolution with parasites maintains host genetic diversity: an experimental test

Berenos, Camillo, Wegner, Mathias and Schmid-Hempel, Paul (2011) Antagonistic coevolution with parasites maintains host genetic diversity: an experimental test Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 278 (1703). pp. 218-224. DOI 10.1098/rspb.2010.1211.

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Genetic variation in natural populations is a prime prerequisite allowing populations to respond to selection, but is under constant threat from forces that tend to reduce it, such as genetic drift and many types of selection. Haldane emphasized the potential importance of parasites as a driving force of genetic diversity. His theory has been taken for granted ever since, but despite numerous studies showing correlations between genetic diversity and parasitism, Haldane's hypothesis has rarely been tested experimentally for unambiguous support. We experimentally staged antagonistic coevolution between the host Tribolium castaneum and its natural microsporidian parasite, Nosema whitei, to test for the relative importance of two separate evolutionary forces (drift and parasite-induced selection) on the maintenance of genetic variation. Our results demonstrate that coevolution with parasites indeed counteracts drift as coevolving populations had significantly higher levels of heterozygosity and allelic diversity. Genetic drift remained a strong force, strongly reducing genetic variation and increasing genetic differentiation in small populations. To our surprise, differentiation between the evolving populations was smaller when they coevolved with parasites, suggesting parallel balancing selection. Hence, our results experimentally vindicate Haldane's original hypothesis 60 years after its conception.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Evolutionary Ecology of Marine Fishes; host–parasite coevolution; genetic variation; Red Queen hypothesis; natural selection
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB3 Marine Ecology > FB3-EV Evolutionary Ecology of Marine Fishes
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1211
ISSN: 0962-8452
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2011 12:24
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2016 13:08

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