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Proc Biol Sci. 2002 May 7; 269(1494): 931–936.
PMCID: PMC1690980

Antagonistic coevolution between a bacterium and a bacteriophage.


Antagonistic coevolution between hosts and parasites is believed to play a pivotal role in host and parasite population dynamics, the evolutionary maintenance of sex and the evolution of parasite virulence. Furthermore, antagonistic coevolution is believed to be responsible for rapid differentiation of both hosts and parasites between geographically structured populations. Yet empirical evidence for host-parasite antagonistic coevolution, and its impact on between-population genetic divergence, is limited. Here we demonstrate a long-term arms race between the infectivity of a viral parasite (bacteriophage; phage) and the resistance of its bacterial host. Coevolution was largely driven by directional selection, with hosts becoming resistant to a wider range of parasite genotypes and parasites infective to a wider range of host genotypes. Coevolution followed divergent trajectories between replicate communities despite establishment with isogenic bacteria and phage, and resulted in bacteria adapted to their own, compared with other, phage populations.

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