We followed adaptation of the chytrid parasite Zygorhizidium planktonicum during 200 generations of growth on its host, the freshwater diatom Asterionella formosa, in a serial passage experiment. Evolution of parasite fitness was assessed both on a homogenous and heterogeneous host population, consisting of respectively a single new and ten different new host strains. These 10 host strains were genetically different and also varied in their initial susceptibility to the parasite. Parasite fitness increased significantly and rapidly on the new, genetically homogenous host population, but remained unaltered during 200 generations of growth on the heterogeneous host population. Enhanced parasite fitness was the result of faster and more efficient transmission, resulting in higher values of R0 (number of secondary infections). Consequently, parasites that evolved within the uniclonal host population infected significantly more of these hosts than did their ancestors. We thus provide experimental evidence for the widely held view that host genetic diversity restricts evolution of parasites and moderates their harmful effects. Genetically uniform host populations are not only at increased risk from fungal epidemics because they all share the same susceptibility, but also because new parasite strains are able to adapt quickly to new host environments and to improve their fitness.
De Bruin, A., Ibelings, B. W., Kagami, M., Mooij, W. M., & Van Donk, E. (2008). Adaptation of the Fungal Parasite Zygorhizidium planktonicum During 200 Generations of Growth on Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Populations of Its Host, the Diatom Asterionella formosa. Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology, 55(2), 69-74. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1550-7408.2008.00306.x