Ecology of congruence: Past meets present

Dale H. Clayton, Sarah E. Bush, Kevin P. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Phylogenetic congruence is governed by various macroevolutionary events, including cospeciation, host switching, sorting, duplication, and failure to speciate. The relative frequency of these events may be influenced by factors that govern the distribution and abundance of the interacting groups; i.e., ecological factors. If so, it may be possible to predict the degree of phylogenetic congruence between two groups from information about their ecology. Unfortunately, adequate comparative ecological data are not available for many of the systems that have been subjected to cophylogenetic analysis. An exception is provided by chewing lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera), which parasitize birds and mammals. For a few genera of these lice, enough data have now been published to begin exploring the relationship between ecology and congruence. In general, there is a correspondence between important ecological factors and the degree of phylogenetic congruence. Careful comparison of these genera suggests that dispersal is a more fundamental barrier to host switching among related hosts than is establishment. Transfer experiments show that host-specific lice can survive and reproduce on novel hosts that are similar in size to the native host as long as the lice can disperse to these hosts. To date, studies of parasite dispersal have been mainly inferential. A better understanding of the role of dispersal will require more direct data on dispersal frequency and distances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-173
Number of pages9
JournalSystematic biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • Cospeciation
  • Host specificity
  • Host switching
  • Lice
  • Parasite
  • Phoresis
  • Phthiraptera
  • Phylogeny

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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