The evolution of host resistance: Tolerance and control as distinct strategies

M. R. Miller, A. White, M. Boots

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120 Citations (Scopus)


In response to parasitic infection, hosts may evolve defences that reduce the deleterious effects on survivorship. This may be interpreted as a form of resistance, as long as infected hosts are able to either recover or reproduce. Here we distinguish two important routes to this form of resistance. An infected host may either: (1) tolerate pathogen damage, or (2) control the pathogen by inhibiting its growth. A model is constructed to examine the evolutionary dynamics of tolerance and control to a free-living microparasite, where both forms of resistance are costly in terms of other life-history traits. We do not observe polymorphism of tolerant genotypes. In contrast, the evolution of control may lead to disruptive selection, and ultimately dimorphism of extreme strains. The optimal host genotype also varies with the type of resistance - individuals invest more in tolerance and pay a greater cost. The free-living framework used makes the distinction between tolerance and control explicit but the distinction applies equally to directly transmitted parasites. Due to the evolutionary differences exhibited, it is important to design experiments that distinguish between the two forms of resistance. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-207
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2005


  • Control
  • Free-living pathogen
  • Polymorphism
  • Resistance
  • Tolerance


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