Does genetic diversity hinder parasite evolution in social insect colonies?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

William Owen Hamar Hughes, Jacobus Jan Boomsma

Polyandry is often difficult to explain because benefits of the behaviour have proved elusive. In social insects, polyandry increases the genetic diversity of workers within a colony and this has been suggested to improve the resistance of the colony to disease. Here we examine the possible impact of host genetic diversity on parasite evolution by carrying out serial passages of a virulent fungal pathogen through leaf-cutting ant workers of known genotypes. Parasite virulence increased over the nine-generation span of the experiment while spore production decreased. The effect of host relatedness upon virulence appeared limited. However, parasites cycled through more genetically diverse hosts were more likely to go extinct during the experiment and parasites cycled through more genetically similar hosts had greater spore production. These results indicate that host genetic diversity may indeed hinder the ability of parasites to adapt while cycling within social insect colonies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)132-143
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

Acromyrmex • entomopathogen • leaf-cutting ant • Metarhizium • polyandry • serial passage experiment • virulence

ID: 80453