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Keywords:

  • cross-infection;
  • host–parasite coevolution;
  • lizard;
  • local adaptation

Biologists commonly assume that parasites are locally adapted since they have shorter generation times and higher fecundity than their hosts, and therefore evolve faster in the arms race against the host's defences. As a result, parasites should be better able to infect hosts within their local population than hosts from other allopatric populations. However, recent mathematical modelling has demonstrated that when hosts have higher migration rates than parasites, hosts may diversify their genes faster than parasites and thus parasites may become locally maladapted. This new model was tested on the Canarian endemic lizard and its blood parasite (haemogregarine genus). In this host–parasite system, hosts migrate more than parasites since lizard offspring typically disperse from their natal site soon after hatching and without any contact with their parents who are potential carriers of the intermediate vector of the blood parasite (a mite). Results of cross-infection among three lizard populations showed that parasites were better at infecting individuals from allopatric populations than individuals from their sympatric population. This suggests that, in this host–parasite system, the parasites are locally maladapted to their host.