ADVICE OF THE ROSE: EXPERIMENTAL COEVOLUTION OF A TREMATODE PARASITE AND ITS SNAIL HOST

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Abstract

Understanding host-parasite coevolution requires multigenerational studies in which changes in both parasite infectivity and host susceptibility are monitored. We conducted a coevolution experiment that examined six generations of interaction between a freshwater snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) and one of its common parasites (the sterilizing trematode, Microphallus sp.). In one treatment (recycled), the parasite was reintroduced into the same population of host snails. In the second treatment (lagged), the host snails received parasites from the recycled treatment, but the addition of these parasites did not begin until the second generation. Hence any parasite-mediated genetic changes of the host in the lagged treatment were expected to be one generation behind those in the recycled treatment. The lagged treatment thus allowed us to test for time lags in parasite adaptation, as predicted by the Red Queen model of host–parasite coevolution. Finally, in the third treatment (control), parasites were not added. The results showed that parasites from the recycled treatment were significantly more infective to snails from the lagged treatment than from the recycled treatment. In addition, the hosts from the recycled treatment diverged from the control hosts with regard to their susceptibility to parasites collected from the field. Taken together, the results are consistent with time lagged, frequency-dependent selection and rapid coevolution between hosts and parasites.

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