Genotypic variation in an ecologically important parasite is associated with host species, lake and spore size

Clara L. Shaw, Rebecca Bilich, Bruce O'Brien, Carla E. Cáceres, Spencer R. Hall, Timothy Y. James, Meghan A. Duffy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genetic variation in parasites has important consequences for host-parasite interactions. Prior studies of the ecologically important parasite Metschnikowia bicuspidata have suggested low genetic variation in the species. Here, we collected M. bicuspidata from two host species (Daphnia dentifera and Ceriodaphnia dubia) and two regions (Michigan and Indiana, USA). Within a lake, outbreaks tended to occur in one host species but not the other. Using microsatellite markers, we identified six parasite genotypes grouped within three distinct clades, one of which was rare. Of the two main clades, one was generally associated with D. dentifera, with lakes in both regions containing a single genotype. The other M. bicuspidata clade was mainly associated with C. dubia, with a different genotype dominating in each region. Despite these associations, both D. dentifera- and C. dubia-associated genotypes were found infecting both hosts in lakes. However, in lab experiments, the D. dentifera-associated genotype infected both D. dentifera and C. dubia, but the C. dubia-associated genotype, which had spores that were approximately 30% smaller, did not infect D. dentifera. We hypothesize that variation in spore size might help explain patterns of cross-species transmission. Future studies exploring the causes and consequences of variation in spore size may help explain patterns of infection and the maintenance of genotypic diversity in this ecologically important system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1303-1312
Number of pages10
Issue number11
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Ceriodaphnia
  • Daphnia
  • Metschnikowia bicuspidata
  • fungal diversity
  • multihost
  • parasite
  • pathogen
  • spillover

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Infectious Diseases


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