Evidence of trade-offs shaping virulence evolution in an emerging wildlife pathogen

P. D. Williams, Andrew P. Dobson, K. V. Dhondt, D. M. Hawley, A. A. Dhondt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


In the mid-1990s, the common poultry pathogen Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) made a successful species jump to the eastern North American house finch Haemorhous mexicanus (HM). Subsequent strain diversification allows us to directly quantify, in an experimental setting, the transmission dynamics of three sequentially emergent geographic isolates of MG, which differ in the levels of pathogen load they induce. We find significant among-strain variation in rates of transmission as well as recovery. Pathogen strains also differ in their induction of host morbidity, measured as the severity of eye lesions due to infection. Relationships between pathogen traits are also investigated, with transmission and recovery rates being significantly negatively correlated, whereas transmission and virulence, measured as average eye lesion score over the course of infection, are positively correlated. By quantifying these disease-relevant parameters and their relationships, we provide the first analysis of the trade-offs that shape the evolution of this important emerging pathogen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1271-1278
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Cage experiment
  • Eye lesions
  • House finch
  • Maximum likelihood
  • Trade-off
  • Transmission
  • Virulence


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