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Keywords:

  • coevolution;
  • dispersal;
  • K-function;
  • plant–pathogen interaction;
  • Plantago lanceolata;
  • Podosphaera plantaginis

Abstract

The rate and scale of gene flow can strongly affect patterns of local adaptation in host–parasite interactions. I used data on regional pathogen occurrence to infer the scale of pathogen dispersal and to identify pathogen metapopulations in the interaction between Plantago lanceolata and its specialist phytopathogen, Podosphaera plantaginis. Frequent extinctions and colonizations were recorded in the metapopulations, suggesting substantial gene flow at this spatial scale. The level of pathogen local adaptation was assessed in a laboratory inoculation experiment at three different scales: in sympatric host populations, in sympatric host metapopulations and in allopatric host metapopulations. I found evidence for adaptation to sympatric host populations, as well as evidence indicating that local adaptation may extend to the scale of the sympatric host metapopulation. There was also variation among the metapopulations in the degree of pathogen local adaptation. This may be explained by regional differences in the rate of migration.