Ecological Research

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 235–240 | Cite as

Parasitism and breeding system variation in North American populations of Daphnia pulex

  • Stuart C. Killick
  • Darren J. Obbard
  • Stuart A. West
  • Tom J. Little
Original Article


The Red Queen hypothesis proposes that frequency-dependent selection by parasites may be responsible for the evolutionary maintenance of sexual reproduction. We sought to determine whether parasites could be responsible for variation in the occurrence of sexual reproduction in 21 populations of Daphnia pulex (Crustacea; Cladocera) that previous studies have shown to consist of either cyclical parthenogens, obligate parthenogens, or a mixture of both. We measured parasite prevalence over a four-week period (which essentially encompasses an entire season for the temporary snow-melt habitats we sampled) and regressed three different measures of sexuality against mean levels of parasite prevalence. Levels of parasitism were low and we found no relationship between levels of sexuality and mean parasite prevalence. Genetic variation with infection level was detected in 2 of the 21 populations, with several different clones showing signs of overparasitism or underparasitism. Overall, however, our results suggest that parasites are not a major source of selection in these populations and it thus seems unlikely they are responsible for maintaining breeding system variation across the study region.


Geographical parthenogenesis Red Queen hypothesis Evolution of sex Parthenogenesis Natural selection Infection 



We thank D.J. Innes and P.D.N. Hebert for providing information about location and breeding system of many of our populations. We are especially grateful to P.D.N. Hebert for providing us with laboratory facilities and technical advice during our time in Ontario. We also thank Curt Lively and an anonymous reviewer for comments on a previous version of the manuscript. This work was supported by a B.B.S.R.C. grant to S.C.K.


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stuart C. Killick
    • 1
  • Darren J. Obbard
    • 1
  • Stuart A. West
    • 1
  • Tom J. Little
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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