Thursday, May 2, 2013

Experiments beyond evolution, a primer on coevolution in the laboratory

A review paper on coevolution published online ahead of the print version of Trends in Ecology and Evolution caught my eye a couple of weeks ago. Brockhurst and Koskella (2013) review that state of affairs of experimental coevolution research. Both of these researchers have a rich experience in this field and present a concise review of the field.
The major contributions of experimental coevolution thus far have been to provide direct evidence of the tempo and mode of antagonistic coevolutionary dynamics, the role of antagonistic coevolution in increasing diversity within and among populations, including the role of parasitism in maintaining sexual recombination, and the structure of specificity in coevolving antagonistic interactions.
Within the article, the authors summarize the expected outcomes or results from common experimental coevolution studies.

Approaches to quantifying reciprocal adaptation.
(Modified figure 2 from Brockhurst and Koskella, 2013). 
The process of rapid reciprocal adaptation inherent to antagonistic coevolution can be driven by at least two contrasting modes of reciprocal selection: ‘Fluctuating Selection Dynamics’ (FSD) where changing allele frequencies in host and parasite populations are driven by parasite-mediated selection against common host resistance alleles or ‘Arms Race Dynamics’ (ARD) where recurrent selective sweeps of novel host resistance and parasite infectivity alleles occur through time, leading to increases in the host range of the parasite and the subsequent host resistance traits. Experimental coevolution has revealed evidence for the operation of both of these modes of reciprocal selection.
The authors also do a good job of pointing to a path rich in research aims for understanding coevolutionary interactions. To date, most experimental coevolution studies have focused on single pair, antagonistic interactions. Beyond the common critique of laboratory experiments (a need to increase “reality”), they suggest that studying more complex communities as well as different forms of interactions.

Don’t wait for the article to show up in print, check out the review online nowThe Brockhurst lab website can be found here. You can also see what Dr. Koskella is up by reading her blog, Nature's Microcosm.


Brockhurst MA, Koskella B (2013) Experimental Coevolution of Species Interactions. Trends in Ecology & Evolution: DOI: