The evolution of host defence when parasites impact reproduction

Alex Best*, Andy White, Mike Boots

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Question: How does the evolution of host defences to parasitism depend on the level of disease-induced sterility? Mathematical methods: Evolutionary invasion analysis (adaptive dynamics) applied to susceptible-infected host-parasite model. Key assumptions: Hosts can evolve defence through avoidance (lower transmission), clearance (higher recovery) or tolerance (lower virulence), in isolation or simultaneously, at a cost to their reproductive rate. Separation of ecological and evolutionary timescales and mutations of small phenotypic effect. Conclusions: Avoidance and clearance are maximized when sterility is high, but tolerance is greatest when sterility is low. However, when clearance and tolerance co-evolve there is greater tolerance at high sterility, as this boosts the effectiveness of clearance. Patterns of investment along other environmental gradients can change as the level of sterility changes. Evolutionary branching to co-existence in avoidance and clearance is most likely when sterility is high.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-409
Number of pages17
JournalEvolutionary Ecology Research
Early online date1 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • Adaptive dynamics
  • Evolution
  • Host-parasite
  • Sterility.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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