Speciation through parasite pressure?

This week we discuss a paper by Berenos, Schmid-Hempel and Wegner entitled "Antagonistic Coevolution Accelerates the Evolution of Reproductive Isolation in Tribolium castaneum".

Published in the American Naturalist in 2012. See abstract below.


The evolution of reproductive isolation among populations is often the result of selective forces. Among those, parasites exert strong selection on host populations and can thus also potentially drive reproductive isolation. This hypothesis has yet to be explicitly tested, and here we set up a multigenerational coevolution experiment to explore this possibility. Five lines of Tribolium castaneum were allowed to coevolve with their natural parasite, Nosema whitei; five paired lines of identical origin were maintained in the absence of parasites. After 17 generations, we measured resistance within and reproductive isolation between all lines. Host lines from the coevolution treatment had considerably higher levels of resistance against N. whitei than their paired host lines, which were maintained in the absence of parasites. Reproductive isolation was greater in the coevolved selection regime and correlated with phenotypic differentiation in parasite resistance between coevolved host lines. This suggests the presence of a selection-driven genetic correlation between offspring number and resistance. Our results show that parasites can be a driving force in the evolution of reproductive isolation and thus potentially speciation.

Published Oct. 3, 2013 11:59 AM - Last modified Oct. 3, 2013 1:53 PM