Local host competition in the evolution of virulence

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The evolution of parasite life histories should usually have correlated effects on host survivorship and/or reproductive success. For example, parasites that reproduce more rapidly might be expected to cause greater reductions in host fitness. Important theoretical advances have recently been made on virulence evolution, but the results are not always consistent. Here I compare two models [Q. Rev. Biol.71 (1996) 37; Q. Rev. Biol.75 (2000) 261] on the evolution of virulence that get qualitatively different results with respect to the effects of coinfection. I also construct a third model that attempts to connect these two formulations. The results suggest that parasite growth rates should increase as local host competition increases, unless relatedness is at equilibrium. In addition, the qualitative effect of adding coinfections on parasite growth rates depends critically on how the number of coinfections affects transmission success.

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