Spatial genetic structure of the ectoparasite Ixodes uriae within breeding cliffs of its colonial seabird host Article - 2003

Karen D. Mccoy, Claire Tirard, Yanis Michalakis

Karen D. Mccoy, Claire Tirard, Yanis Michalakis, « Spatial genetic structure of the ectoparasite Ixodes uriae within breeding cliffs of its colonial seabird host  », Heredity, 2003, pp. 422-429. ISSN 0018-067X

Abstract

To examine the potential importance of the spatial subdivision of hosts for the functioning of parasite populations, we analysed patterns of local genetic structure within natural populations of the seabird ectoparasite, Ixodes uriae, at the scale of the host breeding cliff. The seabird hosts of this parasite nest in dense colonies with a hierarchical spatial organisation (individual nests-breeding cliffs-colony). Using eight microsatellite markers and samples from three breeding cliffs of the Black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), we found that tick populations were indeed genetically structured at this spatial scale. However, the nature of this structuring depended on the characteristics of the cliffs considered. Both the host nest and cliff topography seemed to be important factors in the isolation of tick groups, but their relative roles may depend on the size of the local parasite population. We found no evidence of isolation by distance within a cliff suggesting that independent tick dispersal may not be a significant force influencing population structure in highly infested cliffs. However, genetic structure seemed to decrease with tick life stage, nymphal ticks being more strongly structured than adult ticks. These results may be related to the clustering of tick progeny combined with differential mortality and dispersal probabilities of each life stage. Overall, results indicate that the spatial organisation of hosts can indeed have important consequences for the population genetic structure of their parasites and, thus, may modify parasite dynamics and the scale at which local coevolutionary processes occur.

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