Parasite mediated selection, sex and diapause in a natural population of Daphnia
Duncan, Alison B
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Parasites are thought to have large effects on their host populations, driving genetic change, population density changes, speciation and be a major selective force maintaining sexual reproduction. Indirect signatures of parasite-mediated selection are common, but explicit examples of parasite-mediated selection in nature are lacking. In this thesis I examine parasite-mediated dynamics in a natural population of Daphnia magna that experiences an annual epidemic of the bacterial pathogen Pasteuria ramosa. I also test a novel hypothesis investigating the relationship between parasitism and the production of resting eggs. In chapter 2 a combined field study and laboratory infection experiment illustrates one of the best examples of parasite-mediated selection in a natural population, with Daphnia collected after a parasite epidemic having higher levels of parasite resistance than those collected before. This chapter also explored the relationship between parasitism and resting eggs, which are only produced during the sexual phase of reproduction. Daphnia that were reproducing sexually in the field prior to the parasite epidemic were more susceptible, supporting higher levels of parasite growth, than their asexual counterparts. This supports the idea that some genotypes invest in sex at the expense of parasite resistance. In chapter 3 I used molecular markers to investigate genotype frequency changes in the same population in relation to the parasite epidemic. The parasite epidemic was found to be associated with genetic change in the population, and a laboratory infection experiment revealed that the genotype most resistant to the parasite was also most common following the peak of the parasite epidemic. While chapter 2 explored a genetic relationship between susceptibility and resting eggs, chapter 4 explores whether crowding conditions, cues indicating parasite prevalence in the population, or direct exposure to parasite spores can induce resting egg production. I found that crowding conditions or parasite prevalence enhance levels of male and resting egg production, but patterns were entirely dependent on Daphnia genotypes. There was no indication that exposure to parasite spores affects levels of sexual reproduction.