Antagonistic coevolution across productivity gradients: an experimental test of the effects of dispersal


Laura Lopez-Pascua, Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, Bath, Somerset BA2 7AY, UK.
Tel.: 00 44 (0)1225383382; fax: 00 44 (0)1225383382;


Coevolution commonly occurs in spatially heterogeneous environments, resulting in variable selection pressures acting on coevolving species. Dispersal across such environments is predicted to have a major impact on local coevolutionary dynamics. Here, we address how co-dispersal of coevolving populations of host and parasite across an environmental productivity gradient affected coevolution in experimental populations of bacteria and their parasitic viruses (phages). The rate of coevolution between bacteria and phages was greater in high-productivity environments. High-productivity immigrants (∼2% of the recipient population) caused coevolutionary dynamics (rates of coevolution and degree of generalist evolution) in low-productivity environments to be largely indistinguishable from high-productivity environments, whereas immigration from low-productivity environments (∼0.5% of the population) had no discernable impact. These results could not be explained by demography alone, but rather high-productivity immigrants had a selective advantage in low-productivity environments, but not vice versa. Coevolutionary interactions in high-productivity environments are therefore likely to have a disproportionate impact on coevolution across the landscape as a whole.