Parasite contribution to host divergence: Insights from African cichlid fish and their flatworms

  • Tiziana Gobbin (Speaker)
  • Maarten Vanhove (Contributor)
  • Antoine Pariselle (Contributor)
  • Groothuis, A. (Contributor)
  • Maan, M. (Contributor)
  • Ole Seehausen (Contributor)

Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic presentationAcademic


Parasites may have strong eco-evolutionary interactions with their hosts. Consequently, they may contribute to host diversification. The radiation of cichlid fish in Lake Victoria provides a good model to study the role of parasites in the early stages of speciation. We analysed the macroparasite fauna of a community of 17 sympatric cichlids, and a species pair from multiple localities, representing different levels of genetic differentiation. Parasite infection profiles were different among host species with (nearly) complete reproductive isolation. This suggests that differences in parasite infection accumulate after the initiation of host differentiation. Infection differences were similar between 2 sampling years, indicating that parasite-mediated selection is stable through time. We separately analysed the community composition of Cichlidogyrus morphospecies (Monogenea) infecting host species. Cichlidogyrus is considered a good candidate for driving parasite-mediated speciation, because of its high species richness and host specificity. We found that the species composition of Cichlidogyrus infection was similar among the most closely related host species (members of the Lake Victoria radiation), but two more distantly related species (belonging to non-radiating sister lineages) showed distinct infection profiles. This is inconsistent with a role for Cichlidogyrus in the early stages of divergence. To conclude, we find significant interspecific variation in parasite infection profiles, consistent with parasite-mediated divergent selection. However, we find no evidence that parasites contribute to the initiation of speciation.
Event titleCichlid Science Conference 2019
Event typeConference
LocationMadrid, SpainShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • parasite-mediated speciation
  • speciation
  • cichlids
  • radiation
  • parasite
  • Cichlidogyrus
  • monogeneans