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The effect of migration on local adaptation in a coevolving host–parasite system


Antagonistic coevolution between hosts and parasites in spatially structured populations can result in local adaptation of parasites1,2,3,4,5; that is, the greater infectivity of local parasites than foreign parasites on local hosts1. Such parasite specialization on local hosts has implications for human health and agriculture. By contrast with classic single-species population-genetic models6,7, theory indicates that parasite migration between subpopulations might increase parasite local adaptation, as long as migration does not completely homogenize populations8,9,10,11. To test this hypothesis we developed a system-specific mathematical model and then coevolved replicate populations of the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens and a parasitic bacteriophage with parasite only, with host only or with no migration. Here we show that patterns of local adaptation have considerable temporal and spatial variation and that, in the absence of migration, parasites tend to be locally maladapted. However, in accord with our model, parasite migration results in parasite local adaptation, but host migration alone has no significant effect.

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Figure 1: The simulated effect of differential migration rates on local adaptation.
Figure 2: The effect of differential migration rates on local adaptation.
Figure 3: Mean local adaptation of parasites.
Figure 4: Mean parasite infectivity.


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We thank M. Brockhurst, T. Day, F. Harrison, O. Kaltz, C. Lively and his group, Y. Michalakis, I. Olivieri, L. Lopez Pascua and A. Rivero for comments on the manuscript. This work was funded by the Royal Society.

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Correspondence to Andrew D. Morgan.

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Supplementary Notes

The Supplementary Notes contains a discussion of different measures of local adaptation (including Fig. S1) and details of the model formulation and results (including a table and Fig. S2). (DOC 268 kb)

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Morgan, A., Gandon, S. & Buckling, A. The effect of migration on local adaptation in a coevolving host–parasite system. Nature 437, 253–256 (2005).

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