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Host heterogeneity mitigates virulence evolution

Cite this dataset

White, P. Signe et al. (2020). Host heterogeneity mitigates virulence evolution [Dataset]. Dryad.


Parasites often infect genetically diverse host populations, and the evolutionary trajectories of parasite populations may be shaped by levels of host heterogeneity. Mixed genotype host populations, compared to homogeneous host populations, can reduce parasite prevalence and potentially reduce rates of parasite adaptation due to tradeoffs associated with adapting to specific host genotypes. Here, we used experimental evolution to select for increased virulence in populations of the bacterial parasite Serratia marcescens exposed to either heterogenous or homogenous populations of Caenorhabditis elegans. We found that parasites exposed to heterogenous host populations evolved significantly less virulence than parasites exposed to homogeneous host populations over several hundred bacterial generations. Thus, host heterogeneity impeded parasite adaptation to host populations. While we detected tradeoffs in virulence evolution, parasite adaptation to two specific host genotypes also resulted in modestly increased virulence against the reciprocal host genotypes. These results suggest that parasite adaptation to heterogenous host populations may be impeded by both tradeoffs and a reduction in the efficacy of selection as different host genotypes exert different selective pressures on a parasite population.


The raw data was collected by methods outlined in the methods section (2. Methods). Data was recorded into an Excel spreadsheet, cleaned, then uploaded into JMP Pro 14 and Prism for statistical analysis and figure creation.


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1750553