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Avoidance of host resistance in the oviposition-site preferences of rose bitterling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Romain Rouchet, Carl Smith, Huanzhang Liu, Caroline Methling, Karel Douda, Dan Yu, Qionying Tang, Martin Reichard

School/Research organisations


A contemporary outcome of dynamic host–parasite coevolution can be driven by the adaptation of a parasite to exploit its hosts at the population and species levels (parasite specialisation) or by local host adaptations leading to greater host resistance to sympatric parasite populations (host resistance). We tested the predominance of these two scenarios using cross-infection experiments with two geographically distant populations of the rose bitterling, Rhodeus ocellatus, a fish brood parasite of freshwater mussels, and four populations of their mussel hosts (two Anodonta woodiana and two Unio douglasiae populations) with varying degrees of geographic sympatry and local coexistence. Our data support predictions for host resistance at the species level but no effect of local coexistence between specific populations. Rhodeus ocellatus showed a preference for allopatric host populations, irrespective of host species. Host mussel response, in terms of ejection of R. ocellatus eggs, was stronger in the more widespread and abundant host species (A. woodiana) and this response tended to be higher in sympatric populations. These outcomes provide support for the importance of host resistance in bitterling oviposition-site decisions, demonstrating that host choice by R. ocellatus is adaptive by minimizing egg ejections. These findings imply that R. ocellatus, and potentially other bitterling species, may benefit from exploiting novel hosts, which may not possess appropriate adaptive responses to parasitism.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-783
Number of pages15
JournalEvolutionary Ecology
Issue number5
Early online date10 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017

    Research areas

  • Brood parasitism, Coevolutionary dynamic, Egg ejection, Host selection, Oviposition choice, Parasite specialisation

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