The geographic mosaic of sex and infection in lake populations of a New Zealand snail at multiple spatial scales.
Vergara D., Lively CM., King KC., Jokela J.
Understanding how sexual and asexual forms of the same species coexist is a challenge for evolutionary biology. The Red Queen hypothesis predicts that sex is favored by parasite-mediated selection against common asexual genotypes, leading to the coexistence of sexual and asexual hosts. In a geographic mosaic, where the risk of infection varies in space, the theory also predicts that sexual reproduction would be positively correlated with disease prevalence. We tested this hypothesis in lake populations of a New Zealand freshwater snail, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, by comparing pairwise difference matrices for infection frequency and male frequency using partial Mantel tests. We conducted the test at three spatial scales: among lakes on the South Island, among depths within an intensively sampled lake (Lake Alexandrina), and within depths at Lake Alexandrina. We found that the difference in infection risk and the difference in the proportion of sexual snails were significantly and positively correlated at all spatial scales. Our results thus suggest that parasite-mediated selection contributes to the long-term coexistence of sexual and asexual individuals in coevolutionary hotspots, and that the "warmth" of hotspots can vary on small spatial scales.