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Evolutionary Parasitology: The Integrated Study of Infections, Immunology, Ecology, and Geneticsby Paul Schmid-hempel
Synopses & Reviews
Parasites are everywhere. And they affect almost every aspect imaginable in the life of their hosts. Parasites influence host physiology, behavior, life histories, and the structure of entire ecosystems. To cope with these constant threats, the host's immune system has evolved to become one of the most complex organs known. But parasites, too, have found their own ways to overcome defences and to manipulate their hosts for their own interests. As a result, hosts and parasite are constantly forced to adapt to one another, sometimes very rapidly, sometimes changes occur only over eons. But this struggle always has far reaching consequences for the biology of both parties.
For the first time, this book gives a comprehensive overview over the many facets of host-parasite interactions, from the molecular bases to individual strategies and to the ecological and evolutionary consequences. It is informed by the progress in our understanding that has occurred over the past decades. No longer do we view well-adapted parasites to become harmless but, quite to the contrary, parasite virulence is, determined, both, by the processes that lead to harm and by the evolutionary costs and benefits of this damage. Similarly, parasitism is no longer regarded as being inevitably bad, rather it can be a major factor maintaining diversity in populations and communities, selecting for beautiful plumages of birds, or making us more social.
Evolutionary Parasitology deals with a wide range of topics, from immunology, genetics, sexual selection, to population dynamics, ecology and co-evolution. Readers from different fields and with different backgrounds will find a rich source to meet their interests and to expand their insights into neighbouring disciplines.
For many of us, the mere mention of lice forces an immediate hand to the head, and recollection of childhood experience with nits, special shampoos, etc.and#160; But for a certain breed of biologist, lice make for fascinating scientific fodder, especially so if you are a scientist studying coevolution.and#160; Lice and their various hosts--humans, birds, etc. --provide a stunning example of the ecology of species coevolution.and#160; This system of complex symbiotic relations reveals some of the ecological principles of coevolutionary relations, one of the most exciting areas of research in evolutionary biology of recent.and#160; This work provides an introduction to coevolutionary concepts and approaches, ranging from microevolutionary (ecological) time to macroevolutionary time. The authors then use the system of parasitic lice and their hosts to illustrate some of these different concepts and approaches. They draw examples from a variety of other coevolving systems for comparative purposes, and emphasize the integration of cophylogenetic, comparative, and experimental data in testing coevolutionary hypotheses.and#160; Because lice are permanent parasites that spend their entire lifecycle on the body of the host, their close ecological association makes them ideally suited for this kind of synthetic overview of coevolution.
For most, the mere mention of lice forces an immediate hand to the head and recollection of childhood experiences with nits, medicated shampoos, and traumatic haircuts. But for a certain breed of biologist, lice make for fascinating scientific fodder, especially enlightening in the study of coevolution. In this book, three leading experts on host-parasite relationships demonstrate how the stunning coevolution that occurs between such species in microevolutionary, or ecological, time generates clear footprints in macroevolutionary, or historical, time. By integrating these scales, Coevolution of Life on Hosts offers a comprehensive understanding of the influence of coevolution on the diversity of all life.
Following an introduction to coeveolutionary concepts, the authors combine experimental and comparative host-parasite approaches for testing coevolutionary hypotheses to explore the influence of ecological interactions and coadaptation on patterns of diversification and codiversification among interacting species. Ectoparasitesandmdash;a diverse assemblage of organisms that ranges from herbivorous insects on plants, to monogenean flatworms on fish, and feather lice on birdsandmdash;are powerful models for the study of coevolution because they are easy to observe, mark, and count. As lice on birds and mammals are permanent parasites that spend their entire lifecycles on the bodies of their hosts, they are ideally suited to generating a synthetic overview of coevolutionandmdash;and, thereby, offer an exciting framework for integrating the concepts of coadaptation and codiversification.
About the Author
Paul Schmid-Hempel studied biology at the University of Zurich and in 1982 he received his PhD on the ecology of the Sahara Desert ant. He went on to do post-doctoral work at Oxford University (1982-1984) where he worked on an analysis of optimal strategies of animals. He then moved to the Zoological Institute of the University of Basel, where he was part of that group which set a new course for evolutionary ecology. In 1991 he was appointed professor for experimental ecology at the ETH Zurich, and is now Director of the Genetic Diversity Centre there. Since 2008 he has also been a non-resident Permanent Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. His current research focuses on host-parasite interactions and co-evolution, maintenance of genetic diversity, recombination, social systems, immune defence strategies, and ecological immunology. He has published around 180 original articles, two books, and many articles in newspapers as part of his work in the public understanding of science.
Table of Contents
1. Parasites and Humans
2. The Study of Evolutionary Parasitology
3. The Diversity and Natural History of Parasites
4. The Natural History of Defences
5. Ecological Immunology
6. Parasites, Immunity, and Sexual Selection
8. Parasite Immune Evasion and Manipulation of Host Phenotype
9. Infection and Pathogenesis
10. Host-Parasite Genetics
13. Host-Parasite (Co-)Evolution
14. Parasites and Host Ecology
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