Evolution of drug-tolerant nematode populations in response to density reduction

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Resistance to xenobiotics remains a pressing issue in parasite treatment and global agriculture. Multiple factors may affect the evolution of resistance, including interactions between life-history traits and the strength of selection imposed by different drug doses. We experimentally created replicate selection lines of free-living Caenorhabditis remanei exposed to Ivermectin at high and low doses to assess whether survivorship of lines selected in drug-treated environments increased, and if this varied with dose. Additionally, we maintained lines where mortality was imposed randomly to control for differences in density between drug treatments and to distinguish between the evolutionary consequences of drug-treatment versus ecological processes due to changes in density-dependent feedback. After 10 generations, we exposed all of the selected lines to high-dose, low-dose and drug-free environments to evaluate evolutionary changes in survivorship as well as any costs to adaptation. Both adult and juvenile survival were measured to explore relationships between life-history stage, selection regime and survival. Intriguingly, both drug-selected and random-mortality lines showed an increase in survivorship when challenged with Ivermectin; the magnitude of this increase varied with the intensity of selection and life-history stage. Our results suggest that interactions between density-dependent processes and life history may mediate evolved changes in susceptibility to control measures.

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