How well lice are able to latch onto pigeon flies and catch a lift to new bird hosts affects how the lice evolve. Lice species carried aloft by flies spread to more species and tend to speciate at different times than their hosts, while ground-bound lice more closely coevolve with the birds they infect.The linkurl:results,; published yesterday (May 23) online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that the coevolution of hosts and parasites can be influenced by other species in the community.
Scanning electron microscope image of a pigeon fly (Pseudolynchia canariensis) carrying two wing lice (Columbicola columbae)
Image: Courtesy of Chris Harbison
SEM courtesy of E.H. Burtt, Jr. and J. Ichida (Ohio Wesleyan University)
"You always think about coevolution as happening between just two lineages, but these lineages are often embedded in very complex communities," said evolutionary ecologist linkurl:Chris Harbison; of...
C.W. Harbison and D.H. Clayton, "Community interactions govern host-switching with implications for host-parasite coevolutionary history," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1102129108, 2011.

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