Coevolving parasites enhance the diversitydecreasing effect of dispersal

Tom Vogwill, Andy Fenton, Michael A. Brockhurst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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 SBW25V2 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)578-580
Number of pages3
JournalBiology letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2011


  • Adaptive radiation
  • Antagonistic coevolution
  • Experimental evolution
  • Geographical mosaic theory
  • Metapopulation


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