Prof. dr. Ellen Decaestecker
Evolutionary Ecology & Behavioural Ecology
Molecular Ecology & Ecological Genomics
Host-parasite coevolution : Daphnia and its parasites as a modelHost-parasite interactions are a key structuring force in ecosystems, driving coevolution. We study the evolutionary ecology of host-parasite interactions by using the water flea Daphnia and its parasites as a model. The omnipresence of Daphnia parasites in combination with their short generation time and their virulence effects, enable parasites to reduce Daphnia population density and to influence Daphnia population genetic structure. In their "arms race" against the fast evolving parasites, there will be selection and evolution in the Daphnia. Daphnia and its parasites provide an unique possibility to study long-term coevolutionary processes, as both Daphnia and its parasites produce dormant stages, which are conserved in layered pond sediments. This reflects an archive of past evolutionary dynamics in a natural system. Further, we investigate how the biotic and abiotic environment influences defences against parasites. In first instance, we focus on trade-offs in defences between multiple enemies as trade-offs between predator and microparasite avoidance are important in the evolution of habitat selection behavior in Daphnia. Secondly, we investigate how host-parasite dynamics are influenced by changing (eutrophication, pollution and climate change) environments. At last, we investigate the interaction between host-parasite coevolution and metacommunity processes in a spatial context.
"Host-parasite Red Queen dynamics archived in pond sediment", Standaard, 14 november 2007 Summary Article Article NY Times Interview
Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology and Evolutionary Biology - Ch. Deberiotstraat 32 - B-3000 Leuven - Belgium
phone: +32 16 32 45 80 - fax: +32 16 32 45 75
function: Associated Researcher