Evolutionary Biology

Mutualists construct the ecological conditions that trigger the transition from parasitism

10.24072/pcjournal.139 - Peer Community Journal, Volume 2 (2022), article no. e41.

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The evolution of mutualism between hosts and initially parasitic symbionts represents a major transition in evolution. Although vertical transmission of symbionts during host reproduction and partner control both favour the stability of mutualism, these mechanisms require specifically evolved features that may be absent in the first place. Therefore, the first steps of the transition from parasitism to mutualism may suffer from the cost of mutualism at the organismic level. We hypothesize that spatial structure can lead to the formation of higher selection levels favouring mutualism. This resembles the evolution of altruism, with the additional requirement that the offspring of mutualistic hosts and symbionts must co-occur often enough. Using a spatially explicit agent-based model we demonstrate that, starting from a parasitic system with global dispersal, the joint evolution of mutualistic effort and local dispersal of hosts and symbionts leads to a stable coexistence between parasites and mutualists. The evolution of local dispersal mimics vertical transmission and triggers the formation of mutualistic clusters, counteracting the organismic selection level of parasites that maintain global dispersal. The transition occurs when mutualistic symbionts increase the density of hosts, which strengthens competition between hosts and disfavours hosts inhabiting areas dominated by parasitic symbionts: mutualists construct the ecological conditions that allow their own spread. Therefore, the transition to mutualism may come from an eco-evolutionary feedback loop involving spatially structured population dynamics.

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DOI: 10.24072/pcjournal.139
Ledru, Léo 1; Garnier, Jimmy 2; Rhor, Matthias 1; Nous, Camille 1, 2, 3; Ibanez, Sébastien 1

1 LECA, Univ. Grenoble Alpes, Univ. Savoie Mont-Blanc, CNRS – Grenoble, France
2 LAMA, CNRS, Univ. Grenoble Alpes, Univ. Savoie Mont-Blanc – Chambéry, France
3 Laboratory Cogitamus
License: CC-BY 4.0
Copyrights: The authors retain unrestricted copyrights and publishing rights
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Ledru, Léo; Garnier, Jimmy; Rhor, Matthias; Nous, Camille; Ibanez, Sébastien. Mutualists construct the ecological conditions that trigger the transition from parasitism. Peer Community Journal, Volume 2 (2022), article  no. e41. doi : 10.24072/pcjournal.139. https://peercommunityjournal.org/articles/10.24072/pcjournal.139/

Peer reviewed and recommended by PCI : 10.24072/pci.evolbiol.100143

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