Co-evolution between ectoparasites and their insect hosts: a simulation study of a damselfly–water mite interaction

Authors

  • Jens Rolff,

    1. Zoologisches Institut, AG Ökologie, Technische Universität Braunschweig,
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  • Christine Vogel,

    1. Institut für Zoologie, AG Populationsbiologie, Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität Mainz,
    2. Institut für Geographie und Geoökologie, Technische Universität Braunschweig and
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  • Hans-Joachim Poethke

    1. Institut für Zoologie, AG Populationsbiologie, Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität Mainz,
    2. Ökologische Station der Universität Würzburg, Fabrikschleichach, Germany
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Jens Rolff, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, U.K.
E-mail: JOR@sheffield.ac.uk

Summary

1. A simulation model investigating the co-evolution of water mites infesting their aquatic insect hosts during emergence is presented. The model is based on field and experimental studies of the ectoparasitic water mite Arrenurus cuspidator and the damselfly Coenagrion puella.

2. Three scenarios were studied: (1) Only the host was allowed to evolve timing of emergence, while the timing of the parasites' infestation opportunity was held constant. (2) Both host and parasite were allowed to evolve. (3) Only the parasite's timing was allowed to evolve, while the host was constrained completely.

3. In the first two scenarios, parasite abundances decreased in the course of evolution and reached values well below those found in the field, whereas in the third scenario, parasite abundances were maintained at a level close to that found in the field. In the second scenario (co-evolution), the host seemed to be the leader in the evolutionary race.

4. It is concluded that water mite parasitism is capable of shaping emergence patterns in aquatic insects and, despite the same life-cycle length for host and parasite, the parasite evolves fast enough to shape its hatching pattern to match the emergence pattern of its host.

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