Can pathogens optimize both transmission and dispersal by exploiting sexual dimorphism in their hosts?

Louise Solveig Nørgaard, Ben L. Phillips, Matthew D. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Pathogens often rely on their host for dispersal. Yet, maximizing fitness via replication can cause damage to the host and an associated reduction in host movement, incurring a trade-off between transmission and dispersal. Here, we test the idea that pathogens might mitigate this trade-off between reproductive fitness and dispersal by taking advantage of sexual dimorphism in their host, tailoring responses separately to males and females. Using experimental populations of Daphnia magna and its bacterial pathogen Pasteuria ramosa as a test-case, we find evidence that this pathogen can use male hosts as a dispersal vector, and the larger females as high-quality resource patches for optimized production of transmission spores. As sexual dimorphism in dispersal and body size is widespread across the animal kingdom, this differential exploitation of the sexes by a pathogen might be an unappreciated phenomenon, possibly evolved in various systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20190180
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Daphnia magna
  • Host-parasite
  • Metapopulations
  • Pasteuria ramosa
  • Range expansion
  • Trade-off
  • Virulence

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