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The evolutionary consequences of plasticity in host-pathogen interactions

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PD Taylor, T Day, D Nagy, G Wild, JB Andre, A Gardner

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Interactions between individuals such as hosts and pathogens are often characterized by substantial phenotypic plasticity. Pathogens sometimes alter their exploitation strategies in response to defensive strategies adopted by their host and vice versa. Nevertheless, most game-theoretic models developed to explain the evolution of pathogen and host characteristics assume that no such plasticity occurs. Allowing for phenotypic plasticity in these models is difficult because one must focus on the evolution of pathogen and host reaction norms, and then allow for the potentially indefinite reciprocal changes in pathogen and host behaviour that occur during an infection as a result of their interacting reaction norms. Here, we begin to address these issues for a simple host-pathogen system in which the pathogen exhibits a level of virulence and the host exhibits a level of immune clearance. We find, quite generally, that plasticity promotes the evolution of higher levels of cooperation, in this case leading to reduced levels of both virulence and clearance. (c) 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-331
Number of pages9
JournalTheoretical Population Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2006

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