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Evidence of parasite-mediated disruptive selection on genetic diversity in a wild fish population

Authors

  • SIMON BLANCHET,

    1. Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique, UMR 5174, CNRS — Université Paul Sabatier, 118 route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse cedex 4, France
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  • OLIVIER REY,

    1. Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique, UMR 5174, CNRS — Université Paul Sabatier, 118 route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse cedex 4, France
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  • PAULINE BERTHIER,

    1. Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique, UMR 5174, CNRS — Université Paul Sabatier, 118 route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse cedex 4, France
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  • SOVAN LEK,

    1. Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique, UMR 5174, CNRS — Université Paul Sabatier, 118 route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse cedex 4, France
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  • GERALDINE LOOT

    1. Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique, UMR 5174, CNRS — Université Paul Sabatier, 118 route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse cedex 4, France
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Simon Blanchet, Fax: +33 5 61 55 67 28; E-mail: blanchet@cict.fr

Abstract

Identifying the processes maintaining genetic variability in wild populations is a major concern in conservation and evolutionary biology. Parasite-mediated selection may strongly affect genetic variability in wild populations. The inbreeding depression theory predicts that directional selection imposed by parasites should act against the most inbred hosts, thus favouring genetic diversity in wild populations. We have tested this prediction by evaluating the strength and shape of the relationship between the load of a harmful fin-feeder ectoparasite (Tracheliastes polycolpus) and the genome-wide genetic diversity (i.e. heterozygosity measured at a set of 15 microsatellites) of its fish host, the rostrum dace (Leuciscus leuciscus). Contrary to expectation, we found a nonlinear relationship between host genetic diversity and ectoparasite load, with hosts that were either homozygous or heterozygous harbouring significantly fewer parasites than hosts with an intermediate level of heterozygosity. This relationship suggests that parasites could increase the variance of global heterozygosity in this host population through disruptive selection on genetic diversity. Moreover, when genetic diversity was measured at each locus separately, we found two very strong positive associations between host genetic diversity and the ectoparasite load. This latter result has three main implications: (i) genome-wide effect cannot alone explain the nonlinear relationship between global heterozygosity and ectoparasite load, (ii) negative non-additive allelic interactions (i.e. underdominance) may be a mechanism for resisting ectoparasite infection, and (iii) ectoparasites may favour homozygosity at some loci in this host population.

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