When sexual selection in hosts benefits parasites
Aavani, Pooya (TTU)
Rice, Sean H. (TTU)
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In host-parasite coevolution, the parasite is selected to increase its infectivity while host is selected to resist the parasite infection. It is widely held that parasite-mediated sexual selection can further amplify the selective pressure on the host to overcome parasite infection. In this paper we focus on certain types of parasites, those that can impair the activity of the host immune function to prevent signs of sickness. We show that the effect of sexual selection can actually reduce the selective pressure on the host immune response to adapt to the parasite infection. We design a simple mathematical model for a population of sexually reproducing organism in which individuals are choosy, preferring traits that are correlated negatively with immune system activity. We introduce to this population a parasite that can suppress activation of the host's immune response. Our results show that even though the host immune system is likely to ultimately evolve and adapt to the parasite infection, when sexual selection is part of this process, it can slow down this evolution on the host and give the parasite more time to get established.