Lousy grouse: Comparing evolutionary patterns in Alaska galliform lice to understand host evolution and host–parasite interactions

Andrew D. Sweet, Robert E. Wilson, Sarah A. Sonsthagen, Kevin P. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding both sides of host–parasite relationships can provide more complete insights into host and parasite biology in natural systems. For example, phylogenetic and population genetic comparisons between a group of hosts and their closely associated parasites can reveal patterns of host dispersal, interspecies interactions, and population structure that might not be evident from host data alone. These comparisons are also useful for understanding factors that drive host–parasite coevolutionary patterns (e.g., codivergence or host switching) over different periods of time. However, few studies have compared the evolutionary histories between multiple groups of parasites from the same group of hosts at a regional geographic scale. Here, we used genomic data to compare phylogenomic and population genomic patterns of Alaska ptarmigan and grouse species (Aves: Tetraoninae) and two genera of their associated feather lice: Lagopoecus and Goniodes. We used whole-genome sequencing to obtain hundreds of genes and thousands of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for the lice and double-digest restriction-associated DNA sequences to obtain SNPs from Alaska populations of two species of ptarmigan. We found that both genera of lice have some codivergence with their galliform hosts, but these relationships are primarily characterized by host switching and phylogenetic incongruence. Population structure was also uncorrelated between the hosts and lice. These patterns suggest that grouse, and ptarmigan in particular, share habitats and have likely had historical and ongoing dispersal within Alaska. However, the two genera of lice also have sufficient dissimilarities in the relationships with their hosts to suggest there are other factors, such as differences in louse dispersal ability, that shape the evolutionary patterns with their hosts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8379-8393
Number of pages15
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Goniodes
  • Lagopoecus
  • coevolution
  • genomics
  • grouse
  • ptarmigan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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