Coevolutionary dynamics shape the structure of bacteria-phage infection networks.


Coevolution-reciprocal evolutionary change among interacting species driven by natural selection-is thought to be an important force in shaping biodiversity. This ongoing process takes place within tangled networks of species interactions. In microbial communities, evolutionary change between hosts and parasites occurs at the same time scale as ecological change. Yet, we still lack experimental evidence of the role of coevolution in driving changes in the structure of such species interaction networks. Filling this gap is important because network structure influences community persistence through indirect effects. Here, we quantified experimentally to what extent coevolutionary dynamics lead to contrasting patterns in the architecture of bacteria-phage infection networks. Specifically, we look at the tendency of these networks to be organized in a nested pattern by which the more specialist phages tend to infect only a proper subset of those bacteria infected by the most generalist phages. We found that interactions between coevolving bacteria and phages become less nested over time under fluctuating dynamics, and more nested under arms race dynamics. Moreover, when coevolution results in high average infectivity, phages and bacteria differ more from each other over time under arms race dynamics than under fluctuating dynamics. The tradeoff between the fitness benefits of evolving resistance/infectivity traits and the costs of maintaining them might explain these differences in network structure. Our study shows that the interaction pattern between bacteria and phages at the community level depends on the way coevolution unfolds.

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Fortuna MA, Barbour MA, Zaman L, Hall AR, Buckling A, Bascompte J. (2019). Coevolutionary dynamics shape the structure of bacteria-phage infection networks. Evolution; international journal of organic evolution, 73(5)

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