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Biol Lett. 2011 Aug 23;7(4):578-80. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0071. Epub 2011 Feb 16.

Coevolving parasites enhance the diversity-decreasing effect of dispersal.

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Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool, Biosciences Building, Liverpool L69 7ZB, UK.


High dispersal rates between patches in spatially structured populations can impede diversification and homogenize diversity. These homogenizing effects of dispersal are likely to be enhanced by coevolving parasites that impose strong selection on hosts for resistance. However, the interactive effects of dispersal and parasites on host diversification have never been tested. We used spatially structured, experimental populations of the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens, cultured with or without the phage SBW25Ф2 under three levels of dispersal (none, localized or global), and quantified diversity in terms of evolved bacterial colony morphologies after approximately 100 bacterial generations. We demonstrate that higher levels of colony morphology richness evolved in the presence of phage, and that dispersal reduced diversity most strongly in the presence of phage. Thus, our results suggest that, while parasites can drive host diversification, host populations coevolving with parasites are more prone to homogenization through dispersal.

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