Pathogens exert a strong selective pressure on hosts, entailing host adaptation to infection. This adaptation often affects negatively other fitness-related traits. Such trade-offs may underlie the maintenance of genetic diversity for pathogen resistance. Trade-offs can be tested with experimental evolution of host populations adapting to parasites, using two approaches: (1) measuring changes in immunocompetence in relaxed-selection lines and (2) comparing life-history traits of evolved and control lines in pathogen-free environments. Here, we used both approaches to examine trade-offs in Drosophila melanogaster populations evolving for over 30 generations under infection with Drosophila C Virus or the bacterium Pseudomonas entomophila, the latter through different routes. We find that resistance is maintained after up to 30 generations of relaxed selection. Moreover, no differences in several classical life-history traits between control and evolved populations were found in pathogen-free environments, even under stresses such as desiccation, nutrient limitation, and high densities. Hence, we did not detect any maintenance costs associated with resistance to pathogens. We hypothesize that extremely high selection pressures commonly used lead to the disproportionate expression of costs relative to their actual occurrence in natural systems. Still, the maintenance of genetic variation for pathogen resistance calls for an explanation.
- Experimental evolution