Faculté des sciences

Stabilizing factors interact in promoting host–parasite coexistence

Flatt, Thomas ; Scheuring, István

In: Journal of Theoretical Biology, 2004, vol. 228(2), p. 241

Understanding the mechanisms that promote coexistence among species is a fundamental problem in evolutionary ecology. Such mechanisms include environmental noise, spatial population structure, density dependence, and genetic variation. In natural populations such factors may exert combined effects on coexistence. Thus, to disentangle the contribution of several factors to coexistence, their... Plus

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    Summary
    Understanding the mechanisms that promote coexistence among species is a fundamental problem in evolutionary ecology. Such mechanisms include environmental noise, spatial population structure, density dependence, and genetic variation. In natural populations such factors may exert combined effects on coexistence. Thus, to disentangle the contribution of several factors to coexistence, their effects have to be considered simultaneously. Here we investigate the effects of Ricker-type density dependence, genetic variation, and the frequency of sex on host–parasite coexistence, using Nicholson–Bailey models with and without host density dependence. Interestingly, a low frequency of sex (and the genetic variation induced by sex) is the most important factor in explaining the stability of the host–parasite interaction. However, the carrying capacity K and the frequency of sex interact in affecting coexistence. If K is low (strong density regulation), coexistence is easily attained in the density-dependent model, independently of the frequency of sex. In contrast, for high values of K (weak density regulation), low frequencies of sex considerably improve coexistence. Thus, our results suggest that coexistence among species may strongly depend on interactions among several stabilizing factors. These results seem to be robust since they remain qualitatively unchanged if one assumes (1) Beverton–Holt-type or genotype-specific rather than Ricker-type density dependence in the host, or (2) different genotype-specific susceptibilities of hosts to their parasites, or if one adds (3) moderate levels of environmental stochasticity.