Resistance to predation, herbivory, or disease often comes at a cost such that resistant genotypes are competitively inferior to their sensitive counterparts in the absence of predators, herbivores, or pathogens. The effects of this trade-off on natural populations depend on its sensitivity to environmental changes. We used Escherichia coli and bacteriophage T4 as a model predator/prey system to study the effects of temperature on the cost of resistance. An array of independent T4-resistant mutants, derived from a single ancestral strain of E. coli B, had a mean reduction in competitive fitness that depended strongly on environmental temperature; the cost of resistance generally increased with temperature. Genetic variance for fitness among phage-resistant mutants also depended on temperature; however, genetic variance increased at high and low thermal extremes. These results suggest that temperature is likely to be an important determinant of the consequences of predation in natural communities. We also discuss the underlying mechanistic basis for the cost of resistance in this system and its interaction with temperature.
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Vol. 63 • No. 6