Gene flow and geographically structured coevolution

Scott L. Nuismer, John N. Thompson, Richard Gomulkiewicz


Many of the dynamic properties of coevolution may occur at the level of interacting populations, with local adaptation acting as a force of diversification, as migration between populations homogenizes these isolated interactions. This interplay between local adaptation and migration may be particularly important in structuring interactions that vary from mutualism to antagonism across the range of an interacting set of species, such as those between some plants and their insect herbivores, mammals and trypanosome parasites, and bacteria and plasmids that confer antibiotic resistance. Here we present a simple geographically structured genetic model of a coevolutionary interaction that varies between mutualism and antagonism among communities linked by migration. Inclusion of geographic structure with gene flow alters the outcomes of local interactions and allows the maintenance of allelic polymorphism across all communities under a range of selection intensities and rates of migration. Furthermore, inclusion of geographic structure with gene flow allows fixed mutualisms to be evolutionarily stable within both communities, even when selection on the interaction is antagonistic within one community. Moreover, the model demonstrates that the inclusion of geographic structure with gene flow may lead to considerable local maladaptation and trait mismatching as predicted by the geographic mosaic theory of coevolution.

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