U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska




Date of this Version



Hecht LBB, Thompson PC, Rosenthal BM. 2018 Comparative demography elucidates the longevity of parasitic and symbiotic relationships. Proc. R. Soc. B 285: 20181032. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.1032


Parasitic and symbiotic relationships govern vast nutrient and energy flows, yet controversy surrounds their longevity. Enduring relationships may engender parallel phylogenies among hosts and parasites, but so may ephemeral relationships when parasites colonize related hosts. An understanding of whether symbiont and host populations have grown and contracted in concert would be useful when considering the temporal durability of these relationships. Here, we devised methods to compare demographic histories derived from genomic data. We compared the historical growth of the agent of severe human malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, and its mosquito vector, Anopheles gambiae, to human and primate histories, thereby discerning long-term parallels and anthropogenic population explosions. The growth history of Trichinella spiralis, a zoonotic parasite disseminated by swine, proved regionally specific, paralleling distinctive growth histories for wild boar in Asia and Europe. Parallel histories were inferred for an anemone and its algal symbiont (Exaiptasia pallida and Symbiodinium minutum). Concerted growth in potatoes and the agent of potato blight (Solanum tuberosum and Phytophthora infestans) did not commence until the age of potato domestication. Through these examples, we illustrate the utility of comparative historical demography as a new exploratory tool by which to interrogate the origins and durability of myriad ecological relationships. To facilitate future use of this approach, we introduce a tool called C-PSMC to align and evaluate the similarity of demographic history curves.