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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: October 2019

Chapter Ten - Parasite-mediated selection in red grouse – consequences for population dynamics and mate choice

from Part II - Understanding between-host processes


Parasites inflict many costs on their hosts. Understanding host–parasite relationship eco-evolutionary dynamics needs appreciation of how parasites affect individual fitness, survival and reproductive potential, and how they combine to influence population demography, dynamics and viability; also, how these processes drive microevolutionary processes that define natural and sexual selection. We synthesise work on the relationship between the red grouse and its main parasite, a gastrointestinal nematode. At individual level, we show how parasites impose a physiological cost, measured by immunosuppression and increased oxidative stress, and how their impact varies depending on contexts. We describe how parasite infection constrains expression of sexually selected traits and summarise how relationships between parasite, host and environment shape host population demography and dynamics. Genetic analyses in red grouse suggest nematode burden is moderately heritable, underpinned by a potentially large array of genes involved in the immune system, energy balance and broader homeostatic processes. There is no clear association between allele frequencies among populations and differences in nematode burdens. Possibly, beneficial alleles for parasite resistance cannot spread through the population due to the strong diversifying e?ects of gene ?ow and genetic drift.