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Little Appleton Pasteuria epidemic dataset

Cite this dataset

Duffy, Meghan et al. (2022). Little Appleton Pasteuria epidemic dataset [Dataset]. Dryad.


Virulence, the degree to which a pathogen harms its host, is an important but poorly understood aspect of host-pathogen interactions. However it is not a static trait, instead depending on ecological context and potentially evolving over short periods of time (e.g., during the course of an epidemic). At the start of an epidemic, when susceptible hosts are plentiful, pathogens may evolve increased virulence, maximizing their intrinsic growth rate. However, if host density declines during an epidemic, theory predicts evolution of reduced virulence. Although well-studied theoretically, there is still little empirical evidence for virulence evolution in epidemics, especially in natural settings with native host and pathogen species. Here, we used a combination of field observations and lab experiments in the Daphnia-Pasteuria model system to look for evidence of virulence evolution in nature. Controlling for environmental conditions, we found that there was no change in parasite virulence when measured in terms of host lifespan or the number of clutches produced. There also was no evidence for evolution of host resistance or parasite infectivity. However, over the epidemic, the parasite evolved to produce significantly fewer spores in infected hosts, perhaps as a result of trade-offs quantified in earlier studies. Future studies that track evolution of parasite spore yield in more populations, and that link those changes with genetic changes and with predation rates, will yield better insight into the drivers of parasite evolution in the wild.


Dataset combines a field survey of infection prevalence with infection assays looking for evolution of parasite infectivity, parasite virulence, and/or host susceptibility.


National Science Foundation, Award: 1305836

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Award: GBMF9202