Dynamic transmission, host quality and population structure in a multihost parasite of bumblebees

Mario X. Ruiz-Gonzalez, John Bryden, Yannick Moret, Christine Reber-Funk, Paul Schmid-Hempel, Mark J F Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The evolutionary ecology of multihost parasites is predicted to depend upon patterns of host quality and the dynamics of transmission networks. Depending upon the differences in host quality and transmission asymmetries, as well as the balance between intra- and interspecific transmission, the evolution of specialist or generalist strategies is predicted. Using a trypanosome parasite of bumblebees, we ask how host quality and transmission networks relate to parasite population structure across host species, and thus the potential for the evolution of specialist strains adapted to different host species. Host species differed in quality, with parasite growth varying across host species. Highly asymmetric transmission networks, together with differences in host quality, likely explain local population structure of the parasite across host species. However, parasite population structure across years was highly dynamic, with parasite populations varying significantly from one year to the next within individual species at a given site. This suggests that, while host quality and transmission may provide the opportunity for short-term host specialization by the parasite, repeated bottlenecking of the parasite, in combination with its own reproductive biology, overrides these smaller scale effects, resulting in the evolution of a generalist parasite.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3053-3066
Number of pages14
Issue number10
Early online date2 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012

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