Evol Ecol Res 15: 489-502 (2013)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Testing for local adaptation in the GasterosteusGyrodactylus host–parasite system

Nellie Konijnendijk, Joost A.M. Raeymaekers*, Sandra Vandeuren, Lize Jacquemin and Filip A.M. Volckaert

Laboratory of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Genomics, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Correspondence: N. Konijnendijk, Laboratory of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Genomics, University of Leuven, Ch. Deberiotstraat 32, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.
e-mail: nellie.konijnendijk@bio.kuleuven.be


Background: Parasites are often assumed to be locally adapted to their hosts, while a growing body of literature shows this is not a fixed rule. We used the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and its host-specific parasitic flatworm Gyrodactylus gasterostei of the Belgian lowland–upland system to test for local adaptation and assess whether findings are consistent over different life stages.

Question: Is the GasterosteusGyrodactylus host–parasite model system an example of local adaptation?

Hypothesis: Parasites have higher infection success on sympatric than on allopatric host populations.

Methods: F1 laboratory-bred stickleback originating from a lowland and upland population were infected with parasites of lowland and upland origin. We monitored parasite numbers per individual for 6 weeks and for two life stages and calculated the effect size of local adaptation.

Results: Infection success of parasites was not higher on sympatric than on allopatric host populations. Instead, total worm load differed among sub-adult host populations, but not among adult host populations. This suggests immune competence differs among host populations at a specific life stage, rather than local adaptation of the parasite.

Keywords: Gasterosteus aculeatus, Gyrodactylus gasterostei, host–parasite interactions, local adaptation, immune competence, stickleback.

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