Organisms are often confronted with multiple enemy species. Defenses against different parasite species may be traded off against each other. However, if resistance is based on (potentially costly) general defense mechanisms, it may be positively correlated among parasites. In an experimental study, we confronted 19 clones from one Daphnia magna population with two bacterial and three microsporidian parasite species. All parasites were isolated from the same pond as the hosts. Host clones were specific in their susceptibility towards different parasite species, and parasite species were host-clone specific in their infectivity, spore production, and virulence, resulting in highly significant host-parasite interactions. Since the Daphnia's resistance to different parasite species showed no obvious correlation, neither general defense mechanisms nor trade-offs in resistance explain our findings. None of the Daphnia clones were resistant to all parasite species, and the average level of resistance was quite similar among clones. This may reflect a cost of defense, so that the cumulative cost of being resistant to all parasite species might be too high.
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Vol. 57 • No. 4