Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Escaping parasites and pathogens

New mathematical model explains how hosts survive parasite attacks

In nature, how do host species survive parasite attacks? This has not been well understood, until now. A new mathematical model shows that when a host and its parasite each have multiple traits governing their interaction, the host has a unique evolutionary advantage that helps it survive.

The results are important because they might help explain how humans as well as plants and animals evolve to withstand parasite onslaught.

The research, reported in the March 4 online edition of Nature, was supported by the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) and the National Science Foundation. The paper was co-authored by Tucker Gilman, a postdoctoral fellow at NIMBioS; Scott Nuismer, an associate professor of biology at the University of Idaho, and Tony Jhwueng, a past postdoctoral fellow at NIMBioS.

Evolutionary theory suggests that parasites and pathogens should evolve more rapidly than their hosts because they tend to have shorter generation times and often experience strong selection. But this creates a paradox: How can hosts, or "victim species," survive and even thrive despite continuous onslaught from more rapidly evolving parasitic enemies?

"In order to investigate the influence of the number of traits on coevolution, we used quantitative genetics and individual-based simulations to analyze a model of a victim-exploiter system," Gilman said. We were able to show that when multiple traits, not just a single trait, govern how the hosts and parasites interact, victims can gain the upper hand in the evolutionary arms race."

In nature, interactions between species are often influenced by multiple traits. For example, the resistance of wild parsnip to webworm attack depends on when the parsnip blooms and on concentrations of certain chemical compounds with insecticidal properties found in the plant. Similarly, teleost fish, such as tuna and halibut, have multiple defensive traits such as mucosal barriers and biocidal secretions that parasites must overcome in order to successfully infect the host.

"While the study focuses on host-parasite systems," Gilman said, "the results are general to any victim-exploiter pair. For example, in a predator-prey system, the predator has to first find, then capture, and finally subdue its victims, and a victim can deploy defensive traits at each stage of the attack."

Having multiple attack and defensive mechanisms may help prey species to evolve and maintain low interaction rates with their predators, according to the paper. In addition, the finding suggests that coevolution of multiple traits may help plants to limit the damage they receive from herbivores, and so may help to explain why the world is green.

Citation: Gilman RT, Nusimer SL, Dwueng D-C. 2012. Coevolution in multidimensional trait space favors escape from parasites and pathogens.

The National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) brings together researchers from around the world to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries to investigate solutions to basic and applied problems in the life sciences. NIMBioS is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Catherine Crawley | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Biological Synthesis Escaping Gates Foundation NIMBioS Science TV synthesis

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>