This project aims to embrace a major question in ecological and evolutionary research – how co-evolutionary processes and ecological interactions shape biodiversity at local and global scales. We will use brood parasitism, a unique study system in which interacting partners are readily identified and will take advantage of species that are highly amendable to laboratory and field studies. Using two understudied fish systems (cuckoo catfish and bitterling), we will employ comparative and experimental approaches to understand how coevolution drives and constrains diversification. This project will identify the conditions for the origin and evolution of host specificity, how it is maintained and constrained, and how it contributes to biological diversification. Field and lab studies will be combined with population genetics, phylogenetics and mathematical modelling. This project will contribute to resolving a central question about coevolution; how and why do some parasites become host specialists and its consequences for ecological speciation.
1. Identify the origin and early evolution of host specificity.
2. Quantify large-scale patterns of host specificity and their association with parasite traits and diversification.
3. Measure the constraints and benefits of host specificity.