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Keywords:

  • bacteriophage;
  • escalation;
  • experimental evolution;
  • host–parasite coevolution;
  • productivity;
  • Pseudomonas fluorescens

Abstract

Host–parasite coevolution is believed to influence a range of evolutionary and ecological processes, including population dynamics, evolution of diversity, sexual reproduction and parasite virulence. The impact of coevolution on these processes will depend on its rate, which is likely to be affected by the energy flowing through an ecosystem, or productivity. We addressed how productivity affected rates of coevolution during a coevolutionary arms race between experimental populations of bacteria and their parasitic viruses (phages). As hypothesized, the rate of coevolution between bacterial resistance and phage infectivity increased with increased productivity. This relationship can in part be explained by reduced competitiveness of resistant bacteria in low compared with high productivity environments, leading to weaker selection for resistance in the former. The data further suggest that variation in productivity can generate variation in selection for resistance across landscapes, a result that is crucial to the geographic mosaic theory of coevolution.