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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2016 / Weak link between dispersal and parasite community differentiation or immunogenetic divergence in two sympatric cichlid fishes

Pascal I. Hablützel, Arnout F. Grégoir, Maarten Vanhove, Filip A. Volckaert and Joost A. Raeymaekers (2016)

Weak link between dispersal and parasite community differentiation or immunogenetic divergence in two sympatric cichlid fishes

Molecular Ecology, 25:5451-5466.

Geographical isolation, habitat variation and trophic specialization have contributed to a large extent to the astonishing diversity of cichlid fishes in the Great East African lakes. Because parasite communities often vary across space and environments, parasites can accompany and potentially enhance cichlid species diversification. However, host dispersal may reduce opportunities for parasite-driven evolution by homogenizing parasite communities and allele frequencies of immunity genes. To test for the relationships between parasite community variation, host dispersal and parasiteinduced host evolution, we studied two sympatric cichlid species with contrasting dispersal capacities along the shores of southern Lake Tanganyika. Whereas the philopatric Tropheus moorii evolved into several genetically differentiated colour morphs, Simochromis diagramma is phenotypically rather uniform across its distribution range and shows only weak population structure. Populations of both species were infected with divergent parasite communities and harbour differentiated variant pools of an important set of immune genes, the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). The overall extent of geographical variation of parasites and MHC genes was similar between host species. This indicates that immunogenetic divergence among populations of Lake Tanganyika cichlids can occur even in species that are strongly dispersing. However, because this also includes species that are phenotypically uniform, parasite-induced evolution may not represent a key factor underlying species diversification in this system.
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