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!
Molecular 'clutch' puts infection-fighting cells into gear
22.07.2019 | National Centre for Biological Sciences
22.07.2019 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Augsburg chemists and physicists report how they have succeeded in the extremely difficult separation of hydrogen and deuterium in a gas mixture.
Thanks to the Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) technology developed here and already widely used, the University of Augsburg is internationally recognized as the...
Adjusting the thermal conductivity of materials is one of the challenges nanoscience is currently facing. Together with colleagues from the Netherlands and Spain, researchers from the University of Basel have shown that the atomic vibrations that determine heat generation in nanowires can be controlled through the arrangement of atoms alone. The scientists will publish the results shortly in the journal Nano Letters.
In the electronics and computer industry, components are becoming ever smaller and more powerful. However, there are problems with the heat generation. It is...
Scientists have visualised the electronic structure in a microelectronic device for the first time, opening up opportunities for finely-tuned high performance electronic devices.
Physicists from the University of Warwick and the University of Washington have developed a technique to measure the energy and momentum of electrons in...
Scientists at the University Würzburg and University Hospital of Würzburg found that megakaryocytes act as “bouncers” and thus modulate bone marrow niche properties and cell migration dynamics. The study was published in July in the Journal “Haematologica”.
Hematopoiesis is the process of forming blood cells, which occurs predominantly in the bone marrow. The bone marrow produces all types of blood cells: red...
For some phenomena in quantum many-body physics several competing theories exist. But which of them describes a quantum phenomenon best? A team of researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Harvard University in the United States has now successfully deployed artificial neural networks for image analysis of quantum systems.
Is that a dog or a cat? Such a classification is a prime example of machine learning: artificial neural networks can be trained to analyze images by looking...
24.06.2019 | Event News
29.04.2019 | Event News
17.04.2019 | Event News
22.07.2019 | Information Technology
22.07.2019 | Health and Medicine
22.07.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering