Understanding the processes that shape the evolution of parasites is a key challenge for evolutionary biology. It is well understood that different parasites may often infect the same host and that this may have important implications to the evolutionary behavior. Here we examine the evolutionary implications of the conflict that arises when two parasite species, one vertically transmitted and the other horizontally transmitted, infect the same host. We show that the presence of a vertically transmitted parasite (VTP) often leads to the evolution of higher virulence in horizontally transmitted parasites (HTPs), particularly if the VTPs are feminizing. The high virulence in some HTPs may therefore result from coinfection with cryptic VTPs. The impact of an HTP on a VTP evolution depends crucially on the nature of the life-history trade-offs. Fast virulent HTPs select for intermediate feminization and virulence in VTPs. Coevolutionary models show similar insights, but emphasize the importance of host life span to the outcome, with higher virulence in both types of parasite in short-lived hosts. Overall, our models emphasize the interplay of host and parasite characteristics in the evolutionary outcome and point the way for further empirical study. © 2010 The Author(s). Journal compilation © 2010 The Society for the Study of Evolution.
- Life span
- Vertical transmission