Community interactions govern host-switching with implications for host-parasite coevolutionary history

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2011
Authors:Harbison, CW, Clayton, DH
Journal:Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Pagination:9525 - 9529
Date Published:Jun-29-20112071
Keywords:Coevolutionary biology, Community ecology, ectoparasites, phoresy

Reciprocal selective effects between coevolving species are often influenced by interactions with the broader ecological community. Community-level interactions may also influence macroevolution- ary patterns of coevolution, such as cospeciation, but this hypoth- esis has received little attention. We studied two groups of ecologically similar feather lice (Phthiraptera: Ischnocera) that differ in their patterns of association with a single group of hosts. The two groups, “body lice” and “wing lice,” are both parasites of pigeons and doves (Columbiformes). Body lice are more host-specific and show greater population genetic structure than wing lice. The mac- roevolutionary history of body lice also parallels that of their colum- biform hosts more closely than does the evolutionary history of wing lice. The closer association of body lice with hosts, compared with wing lice, can be explained if body lice are less capable of switching hosts than wing lice. Wing lice sometimes disperse phor- etically on parasitic flies (Diptera: Hippoboscidae), but body lice seldom engage in this behavior. We tested the hypothesis that wing lice switch host species more often than body lice, and that the difference is governed by phoresis. Our results show that, where flies are present, wing lice switch to novel host species in sufficient numbers to establish viable populations on the new host. Body lice do not switch hosts, even where flies are present. Thus, differences in the coevolutionary history of wing and body lice can be explained by differences in host-switching, mediated by a member of the broader parasite community.

Short Title:Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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