Theoretical studies have indicated that the population genetics of host-parasite interactions may be highly dynamic, with parasites perpetually adapting to common host genotypes and hosts evolving resistance to common parasite genotypes. The present study examined temporal variation in resistance of hosts and infectivity of parasites within three populations of Daphnia magna infected with the sterilizing bacterium Pasteuria ramosa. Parasite isolates and host clones were collected in each of two years (1997, 1998) from one population; in two other populations, hosts were collected from both years, but parasites from only the first year. We then performed infection experiments (separately for each population) that exposed hosts to parasites from the same year or made combinations involving hosts and parasites from different years. In two populations, patterns were consistent with the evolution of host resistance: either infectivity or the speed with which parasites sterilized hosts declined from 1997 to 1998. In another population, infectivity, virulence, and parasite spore production did not vary among host-year or parasite-year. For this population, we also detected strong within-population genetic variation for resistance. Thus, in this case, genetic variability for fitness-related traits apparently did not translate into evolutionary change. We discuss a number of reasons why genetic change may not occur as expected in parasite-host systems, including negative correlations between resistance and other traits, gene flow, or that the dynamic process itself may obscure the detection of gene frequency changes.
Corresponding Editor: P. Jarne