Pulsed-resource dynamics increase the asymmetry of antagonistic coevolution between a predatory protist and a prey bacterium

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Abstract

Temporal resource fluctuations could affect the strength of antagonistic coevolution through population dynamics and costs of adaptation. We studied this by coevolving the prey bacterium Serratia marcescens with the predatory protozoa Tetrahymena thermophila in constant and pulsed-resource environments for approximately 1300 prey generations. Consistent with arms race theory, the prey evolved to be more defended, whereas the predator evolved to be more efficient in consuming the bacteria. Coevolutionary adaptations were costly in terms of reduced prey growth in resource-limited conditions and less efficient predator growth on nonliving resource medium. However, no differences in mean coevolutionary changes or adaptive costs were observed between environments, even though resource pulses increased fluctuations and mean densities of coevolving predator populations. Interestingly, a surface-associated prey defence mechanism (bacterial biofilm), to which predators were probably unable to counter-adapt, evolved to be stronger in pulsed-resource environment. These results suggest that temporal resource fluctuations can increase the asymmetry of antagonistic coevolution by imposing stronger selection on one of the interacting species.

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