Parasites as markers of avian host ecology and evolution: Examples from the micro and macroevolutionary histories of parasitic chewing lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera)

Jason Weckstein, Kevin Johnson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Prior to the advent of DNA sequencing technology, there was a long history of biologists using parasites to make inferences about host biology and evolution. However, the analysis of variation in associated parasite DNA sequences can serve as powerful tools for making inferences about host population structure, ecology, and phylogenetic history. In some cases, avian host DNA has not had time to accrue variation required to make inferences about genealogical history and thus the relatively rapid rate of evolution of their associated parasites provides an excellent proxy for reconstructing recent host evolutionary history. Patterns of parasites switching hosts or sharing of conspecific parasites among divergent hosts can provide inferences about historical opportunities for parasites to disperse between avian host species, and thus can elucidate historical distributions and ecological interactions among bird species. Lastly, parasite evolutionary history can provide independent evidence to corroborate higher-level macroevolutionary relationships among lineages of birds. We will present examples from our own research and from the literature, where analysis of parasite DNA sequences at macro and micro-evolutionary scales allows us to make inferences about avian evolutionary history and ecology. We will focus on ectoparasitic chewing lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera), which are excellent markers for host evolutionary history and ecology, because they are permanent parasites on birds, evolve more rapidly than their hosts, and are a model system for the study of bird-parasite coevolutionary history
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication6th North American Ornithological Conference, 16-21 August, 2016, Washington, D.C.
Pages486
StatePublished - 2016

Keywords

  • INHS

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