Diversification of host-parasite population structures via life history traits


Diversification of host-parasite population structures via life history traits
Researchers: Caroline Nieberding (principal investigator)

External collaborators:
- Dr. Y. Desdevises (Paris VI univ., France)
- Dr. E. Jousselin (Centre for Biology and Management of Populations, Montferrier, France)
- Prof. S. Morand (Montpellier univ., France)
Several parasite and host life history traits, including life cycle, mode of transmission, dispersal, level of specificity and abundance, shape the differentiation of parasite populations and can lead to reproductive isolation and speciation in parasites. This research line builds on results obtained during my PhD where I compared the phylogeographic structures of a rodent host genus (Apodemus) and their nematode parasites (Heligmosomoides polygyrus). By sequencing neutral (non involved in adaptation) genes and comparing statistically the resulting phylogeographies, we observed that the parasite and the host displayed similar population structures. This led to the puzzling idea that genes of a parasite might actually better reflect the host history than genes of the host itself, so that parasites could be used as evolutionary prints of the history of their hosts.

Currently, we develop a statistical approach that aim at specifying the relative importance of various parasite and host life history traits in shaping congruent or incongruent population structures. We also aim at evaluating the role of spatial and temporal variations of these host and parasite traits across their distribution range in determining long-term common differentiation of host and parasite populations.