Pathogen-induced rapid evolution in a vertebrate life-history trait

Ohlberger, Jan; Langangen, Oystein; Edeline, Eric; Olsen, Esben Moland; Winfield, Ian J.; Fletcher, Janice M.; James, J. Ben; Stenseth, Nils Christian; Vollestad, L.eif Asbjorn. 2011 Pathogen-induced rapid evolution in a vertebrate life-history trait. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B, 278. 35-41.

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Anthropogenic factors, including climate warming, are increasing the incidence and prevalence of infectious diseases worldwide. Infectious diseases caused by pathogenic parasites can have severe impacts on host survival, thereby altering the selection regime and inducing evolutionary responses in their hosts. Knowledge about such evolutionary consequences in natural populations is critical to mitigate potential ecological and economic effects. However, studies on pathogen-induced trait changes are scarce and the pace of evolutionary change is largely unknown, particularly in vertebrates. Here, we use a time series from long-term monitoring of perch to estimate temporal trends in the maturation schedule before and after a severe pathogen outbreak. We show that the disease induced a phenotypic change from a previously increasing to a decreasing size at maturation, the most important life-history transition in animals. Evolutionary rates imposed by the pathogen were high and comparable to those reported for populations exposed to intense human harvesting. Pathogens thus represent highly potent drivers of adaptive phenotypic evolution in vertebrates.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Water > WA Topic 2 - Ecohydrological Processes > WA - 2.4 - Quantify the importance of food web structure and trophic interactions ...
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Parr
ISSN: 0962-8444
Additional Keywords: disease, life-history evolution, maturation reaction norm, pathogen, perch, size at maturation
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
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Date made live: 13 Jan 2011 09:33 +0 (UTC)

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