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Evolving to fight epidemics: Weakness can be an advantage
Date:3/30/2012

her levels of total nitrogen.

"Daphnia became more susceptible to the yeast in lakes with fewer resources and higher vertebrate predation, but evolved toward increased resistance in lakes with increased resources and lower predation," says Duffy.

The study's combination of observations, experiments and mathematical modeling supports the researchers' theoretical prediction that when hosts face a resistance-reproduction tradeoff, they evolve increased resistance to infection during larger epidemics and increased susceptibility during smaller ones.

Ultimately, ecological gradients, through their effects on epidemic size, influence evolutionary outcomes of hosts during epidemics.

"While the occurrence and magnitude of disease outbreaks can strongly influence host evolution, this study suggests that altering predation pressure on hosts and productivity of ecosystems may also influence this evolution," says Duffy.

The team plans to repeat the study this summer in the same Indiana lakes to look at whether the relationships between ecological factors, epidemic size and host evolution they found in this study can be corroborated.


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Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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