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J Theor Biol. 2003 Jun 7;222(3):373-88.

Resistance may be futile: dispersal scales and selection for disease resistance in competing plants.

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Department of Agronomy and Range Science, University of California, Davis, USA.


If a host species shares a pathogen with competing species, the disease may provide a net benefit. Selection for resistance will depend on the trade-off between the damage done by the disease and the positive effects resulting from infection of competitors. This paper presents a simple, spatially explicit model of a plant that shares a disease with a superior competitor. The phenotypic evolution of cost-free resistance is studied by using the method of pair approximation to analyse the small-scale spatial structure of the interacting populations. Selection favors lower resistance when disease transmission is spatially local and the damage to the competitor is sufficient to outweigh the direct effects of infection. This suggests that local spatial structure may be critical in determining the coevolution of host-host-pathogen systems.

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