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Gene flow and the coevolution of parasite range.

Abstract

The geographic range of many parasites is restricted relative to that of their hosts. We study possible evolutionary mechanisms for this observation using a simple model that couples coevolution and demography. The model assumes that the environment consists of two habitats connected by movement and that coevolution is governed by quantitative traits. Our results demonstrate that host gene flow is an important determinant of parasite geographic range. Fluctuations in the rate of host gene flow cause shifts in parasite population densities and associated range expansions or contractions. In extreme cases, changing the rate of host gene flow can lead to global extinction of the parasite. Through a process we term demographic compensation, these shifts in parasite density may occur with little or no change in parasite adaptation to the host. As a consequence, reciprocal adaptation between host and parasite can become uncoupled from the rate of host gene flow.

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