Abstracts (first author)


Antibiotic resistance among the killers

Author(s): Rozen DE, Grimbergen A


The discovery and development of antibiotics as part of the medical arsenal is one of the great triumphs in the effort to eradicate bacterial diseases. For more than 70 years these microbial products have worked with remarkable success, transforming the medical landscape and dramatically improving human health. However, despite their tremendous relevance for humans, there is a surprising lack of understanding of the role of antibiotics in nature for the organisms that produce them. Why are antibiotics produced and why do strains in nature evolve to resist them. Here we test the idea that antibiotic-mediated interference competition between coexisting bacterial species in soil drives reciprocal coevolutionary changes as strains evolve novel mechanisms of killing and resistance. Focusing on the prolific antibiotic producing genus, Streptomyces, and their coexisting competitors, we first characterize interaction networks between coexisting Streptomycetes and then ask whether antibiotic resistance shows evidence of local adaptation. Second, we are investigating the costs and in situ fitness of naturally resistant strains of Streptomyces in soil at different antibiotic concentrations and during co-cultivation with Streptomycetes that are natural antibiotic producers. Our work examines the natural context and population dynamics of resistance evolution, thereby providing insight into processes occurring in the clinical environment.

Abstracts (coauthor)


Studies of transgenerational immune priming have shown that an immune challenge to parents can lead to upregulated offspring immunity and increased resistance to disease1,2. Here we investigate whether mothers can anticipate immune challenges to their offspring by assessing the quality of resources that will be available to offspring. When resources are spatially and temporally variable, it could be adaptive to alter the offspring phenotype accordingly.

The burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides feeds and reproduces on carrion. Females will breed multiple times during their lives, and carcasses will vary in levels of decomposition throughout their lifespan. Their offspring will therefore experience different levels of competition and challenges from micro-organisms, as well as variation in nutritional quality. Parents examine and carefully prepare carcasses for their broods, giving mothers an opportunity to assess the quality of the reproductive resource during this preparation phase.

We tested the hypothesis that beetle mothers can anticipate the offspring’s environment during the preparation of the resource and match offspring phenotype to this by adjusting immune investment and/or development. We performed a cross-factorial experiment in which mothers bred on resources of either good or poor quality, and newly hatched larvae were transferred onto resources of either the same or different quality. During their final larval instar, traits relating to fitness and immune defence were measured. Adult life history traits from the offspring generation were also assessed, and we present those findings here.


1 Tidbury, H., Pedersen, A., Boots, M. 2011 Within and transgenerational immune priming in an insect to a DNA virus Proc. R. Soc. B 278, 871-876 2 Sadd, B.M., Kleinlogel, Y., Schmid-Hempel, R. & Schmid- Hempel, P. 2005 Trans-generational immune priming in a social insect. Biol. Lett 1, 386–388


Chairman: Octávio S. Paulo
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XIV Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology

Organization Team
Department of Animal Biology (DBA)
Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon
P-1749-016 Lisbon


Computational Biology & Population Genomics Group