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Keywords:

  • Arms race;
  • experimental evolution;
  • gene flow;
  • geographic mosaic;
  • local adaptation;
  • microbes

Natural populations of hosts and parasites are often subdivided and patchily distributed such that some regions of a host species' range will be free from a given parasite. Host migration from parasite-free to parasite-containing patches is expected to alter coevolutionary dynamics by changing the evolutionary potential of antagonists. Specifically, host immigration can favor parasites by increasing transmission opportunities, or hosts by introducing genetic variation. We tested these predictions in coevolving populations of Pseudomonas fluorescens and phage Φ2 that received immigrants from phage-free populations. We observed a negative quadratic relationship between sympatric resistance to phage and host immigration rate (highest at intermediate immigration) but a positive quadratic relationship between coevolution rate and host immigration rate (lowest at intermediate immigration). These results indicate that for a wide range of rates, host immigration from parasite-free patches can increase the evolutionary potential of parasites, and increase the coevolutionary rate if parasite adaptation is limiting in the absence of immigration.