On the evolution of sexual reproduction in hosts coevolving with multiple parasites
Host-parasite coevolution has been studied extensively in the context of the evolution of sex. Although hosts typically coevolve with several parasites, most studies considered one-host/one-parasite interactions. Here, we study population-genetic models in which hosts interact with two parasites. We find that host/multiple-parasite models differ nontrivially from host/single-parasite models. Selection for sex resulting from interactions with a single parasite is often outweighed by detrimental effects due to the interaction between parasites if coinfection affects the host more severely than expected based on single infections, and/or if double infections are more common than expected based on single infections. The resulting selection against sex is caused by strong linkage-disequilibria of constant sign that arise between host loci interacting with different parasites. In contrast, if coinfection affects hosts less severely than expected and double infections are less common than expected, selection for sex due to interactions with individual parasites can now be reinforced by additional rapid linkage-disequilibrium oscillations with changing sign. Thus, our findings indicate that the presence of an additional parasite can strongly affect the evolution of sex in ways that cannot be predicted from single-parasite models, and that thus host/multiparasite models are an important extension of the Red Queen Hypothesis.