Abstracts (first author)
What’s your gut feeling? Co-infections drive parasite evolution in C. elegans
Host-parasite evolutionary dynamics are typically considered as binary interactions. In nature, most organisms are infected by multiple parasites (“co-infection”), and evolution will thus be driven by a network of antagonistic interactions. Given the fitness consequences of within-host competition and host immunity, we hypothesized that co-infections would change the trajectory of parasite evolution. We tested this using experimental evolution of a lab community – worm host and co-infecting gut bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus faecalis. Co-infection altered the evolutionary trajectories of both parasite species. Additionally, we find that evolving resident gut bacteria may aid in defending the host from virulent co-infecting parasites. We conclude that understanding and predicting host-parasite evolution requires knowledge of other parasites in the system.