Within-host speciation of malaria parasites

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background
Sympatric speciation—the divergence of populations into new species in absence of geographic barriers to hybridization—is the most debated mode of diversification of life forms. Parasitic organisms are prominent models for sympatric speciation, because they may colonise new hosts within the same geographic area and diverge through host specialization. However, it has been argued that this mode of parasite divergence is not strict sympatric speciation, because host shifts likely cause the sudden effective isolation of parasites, particularly if these are transmitted by vectors and therefore cannot select their hosts. Strict sympatric speciation would involve parasite lineages diverging within a single host species, without any population subdivision.


Methodology/Principal Findings
Here we report a case of extraordinary divergence of sympatric, ecologically distinct, and reproductively isolated malaria parasites within a single avian host species, which apparently occurred without historical or extant subdivision of parasite or host populations.


Conclusions/Significance
This discovery of within-host speciation changes our current view on the diversification potential of malaria parasites, because neither geographic isolation of host populations nor colonization of new host species are any longer necessary conditions to the formation of new parasite species.

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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biological Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e235-e235
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume2
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes