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The ecological, epidemiological, and evolutionary consequences of host-parasite interactions are critically shaped by the spatial scale at which parasites adapt to hosts. The scale of interaction between hyperparasites and their parasites is likely to be influenced by the host of the parasite and potentially likely to differ among within-host environments. Here we examine the scale at which bacteriophages adapt to their host bacteria by studying natural isolates from the surface or interior of horse chestnut leaves. We find that phages are more infective to bacteria from the same tree relative to those from other trees but do not differ in infectivity to bacteria from different leaves within the same tree. The results suggest that phages target common bacterial species, including an important plant pathogen, within plant host tissues; this result has important implications for therapeutic phage epidemiology. Furthermore, we show that phages from the leaf interior are more infective to their local hosts than phages from the leaf surface are to theirs, suggesting either increased resistance of bacteria on the leaf surface or increased phage adaptation within the leaf. These results highlight that biotic environment can play a key role in shaping the spatial scale of parasite adaptation and influencing the outcome of coevolutionary interactions.

Original publication




Journal article


Am Nat

Publication Date





440 - 451


Adaptation, Biological, Aesculus, Bacteria, Bacteriophages, Biological Evolution, Molecular Sequence Data, Plant Leaves, Species Specificity