Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 125–131
The degree of specificity in host–parasite interactions has important implications for ecology and evolution. Unfortunately, specificity can be difficult to determine when parasites cannot be cultured. In such cases, studies often use isolates of unknown genetic composition, which may lead to an underestimation of specificity. We obtained the first clones of the unculturable bacterium Pasteuria ramosa, a parasite of Daphnia magna. Clonal genotypes of the parasite exhibited much more specific interactions with host genotypes than previous studies using isolates. Clones of P. ramosa infected fewer D. magna genotypes than isolates and host clones were either fully susceptible or fully resistant to the parasite. Our finding enhances our understanding of the evolution of virulence and coevolutionary dynamics in this system. We recommend caution when using P. ramosa isolates as the presence of multiple genotypes may influence the outcome and interpretation of some experiments.