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Keywords:

  • frequency-dependent selection;
  • gene-for-gene;
  • host–parasite coevolution;
  • local adaptation;
  • metapopulation;
  • Microbotryum violaceum;
  • resistance;
  • Silene latifolia

Abstract

In spatially structured populations, host–parasite coevolutionary potential depends on the distribution of genetic variation within and among populations. Inoculation experiments using the plant, Silene latifolia, and its fungal pathogen, Microbotryum violaceum, revealed little overall differentiation in infectivity/resistance, latency or spore production among host or pathogen populations. Within populations, fungal strains had similar means, but varied in performance across plant populations. Variation in resistance among seed families indicates the potential for parasite-mediated selection, whereas there was little evidence for local pathogen genotype × plant genotype interactions assumed by most theoretical coevolution models. Lower spore production on sympatric than allopatric hosts confirmed local fungal maladaptation already observed for infectivity. Correlations between infectivity and latency or spore production suggest a common mechanism for variation in these traits. Our results suggest low variation available to this pathogen for tracking its coevolving host. This may be caused by random drift, breeding system or migration characteristic of metapopulation dynamics.