Research ArticlePARASITOLOGY

Host-parasite Red Queen dynamics with phase-locked rare genotypes

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Science Advances  04 Mar 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 3, e1501548
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501548


Interactions between hosts and parasites have been hypothesized to cause winnerless coevolution, called Red Queen dynamics. The canonical Red Queen dynamics assume that all interacting genotypes of hosts and parasites undergo cyclic changes in abundance through negative frequency-dependent selection, which means that any genotype could become frequent at some stage. However, this prediction cannot explain why many rare genotypes stay rare in natural host-parasite systems. To investigate this, we build a mathematical model involving multihost and multiparasite genotypes. In a deterministic and controlled environment, Red Queen dynamics occur between two genotypes undergoing cyclic dominance changes, whereas the rest of the genotypes remain subordinate for long periods of time in phase-locked synchronized dynamics with low amplitude. However, introduction of stochastic noise in the model might allow the subordinate cyclic host and parasite types to replace dominant cyclic types as new players in the Red Queen dynamics. The factors that influence such evolutionary switching are interhost competition, specificity of parasitism, and degree of stochastic noise. Our model can explain, for the first time, the persistence of rare, hardly cycling genotypes in populations (for example, marine microbial communities) undergoing host-parasite coevolution.

  • Red Queen
  • parasitism
  • coevolution
  • rare species
  • cyclic dominance
  • environmental variability

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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