Parasite-mediated heterozygote advantage in an outbred songbird population

Elizabeth A. MacDougall-Shackleton, Elizabeth P. Derryberry, Johannes Foufopoulos, Andrew P. Dobson, Thomas P. Hahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Coevolution with parasites is thought to maintain genetic diversity in host populations. However, while there are sound theoretical reasons to expect heterozygosity and parasite resistance to be related, this pattern has generally been shown only in inbred laboratory and island populations. This leaves doubt as to whether parasite-mediated selection for genetic diversity is in fact a general process. Here we show that haematozoan parasite load is linked to two complementary measures of microsatellite variability in an outbred population of mountain white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys oriantha) for which we know that parasites reduce fitness. Moreover, each of the genetic measures predicts a subtly different aspect of parasitism. Microsatellite heterozygosity is related to an individual's risk of parasitism, and mean d2 (a broader, more long-term measure of parental relatedness) to the severity of infection among parasitized individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-107
Number of pages3
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 22 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Genetic diversity
  • Haematozoa
  • Heterozygosity
  • Parasite-host interaction
  • Population genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Parasite-mediated heterozygote advantage in an outbred songbird population'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this