Birds are islands for parasites

Jennifer A.H. Koop, Karen E. DeMatteo, Patricia G. Parker, Noah K. Whiteman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Understanding the mechanisms driving the extraordinary diversification of parasites is a major challenge in evolutionary biology. Co-speciation, one proposed mechanism that could contribute to this diversity is hypothesized to result from allopatric co-divergence of host-parasite populations. We found that island populations of the Galápagos hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) and a parasitic feather louse species (Degeeriella regalis) exhibit patterns of co-divergence across variable temporal and spatial scales. Hawks and lice showed nearly identical population genetic structure across the Galápagos Islands. Hawk population genetic structure is explained by isolation by distance among islands. Louse population structure is best explained by hawkpopulation structure, rather than isolation by distance per se, suggesting that lice tightly track the recent population histories of their hosts. Among hawk individuals, louse populations were also highly structured, suggesting that hosts serve as islands for parasites from an evolutionary perspective. Altogether, we found that host and parasite populations may have responded in the same manner to geographical isolation across spatial scales. Allopatric co-divergence is likely one important mechanism driving the diversification of parasites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number0255
JournalBiology letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2014


  • Co-divergence
  • Co-speciation
  • Coevolution
  • Population genetic structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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