For most, the mere mention of lice forces an immediate hand to the head and recollection of childhood experiences with nits, medicated shampoos, and traumatic haircuts. But for a certain breed of biologist, lice make for fascinating scientific fodder, especially enlightening in the study of coevolution. In Coevolution of Life on Hosts, three leading experts on host-parasite relationships demonstrate how the stunning coevolution that occurs between such species in microevolutionary, or ecological, time generates clear footprints in macroevolutionary, or historical, time. By integrating these scales, Coevolution of Life on Hosts offers a comprehensive understanding of the influence of coevolution on the diversity of all life.
Following an introduction to coevolutionary concepts, the authors combine experimental and comparative host-parasite approaches for testing coevolutionary hypotheses to explore the influence of ecological interactions and coadaptation on patterns of diversification and codiversification among interacting species. Ectoparasites – a diverse assemblage of organisms that ranges from herbivorous insects on plants, to monogenean flatworms on fish, and feather lice on birds – are powerful models for the study of coevolution because they are easy to observe, mark, and count. As lice on birds and mammals are permanent parasites that spend their entire lifecycles on the bodies of their hosts, they are ideally suited to generating a synthetic overview of coevolution – and, thereby, offer an exciting framework for integrating the concepts of coadaptation and codiversification.
"Clayton, Bush, and Johnson's writing has a way of sneaking up on you, drawing you further and further into the fascinating world of lice, their unfortunate hosts (count us among The Chosen, of course), and evolution's hand on all participants, be they willing or unwilling. This may be a book intended for biologists, but I would call it a page-turner for just about anyone who – forgive the pun – itches to learn more about little creatures that make their living by sucking and chewing on bigger creatures. Let me just say this: I know for sure it's a treasure trove for at least one cartoonist."
– Gary Larson, creator of The Far Side
"A fascinating treatment of coevolution using the very interesting and apt model system of lice-host associations. The authors assemble and consider a great deal of research to achieve a broad synthesis – for instance, linking microevolution and macroevolution, taking a community ecology approach to host-parasite coevolution, and reflecting on geographic structure as part of the coevolutionary process. As an insect-plant person I was very much taken in, and I left the book with a new appreciation for what these systems can teach us about coevolution. The scholarship is exceptional. Thorough, carefully documented, well-substantiated, and with flashes of humor, Coevolution of Life on Hosts will become a bible for students of lice-host interactions, but it should appeal to anybody with an interest in coevolution and has the potential to be a crossover work that stimulates thought and progress in many fields."
– Kelley J. Tilmon, South Dakota State University, editor of Specialization, Speciation & Radiation: The Evolutionary Biology of Herbivorous Insects
Part I. Background
1. Introduction to coevolution
2. Biology of lice: overview
3. Effects of lice on hosts
Part II. Coadaptation
4. Adaptations for resisting lice
5. Counter-adaptations of lice
6. Competition and coadaptation
Part III. Hosts as islands
8. Population structure
Part IV. Codiversification
9. Cophylogenetic dynamics
10. Comparative cophylogenetics of lice
11. Coadaptive diversification of lice
Part V. Synthesis
12. Coevolution of life on hosts
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Dale H. Clayton is professor of biology at the University of Utah. He is coeditor of Host-Parasite Evolution: General Principles and Avian Models, coauthor of The Chewing Lice: World Checklist and Biological Overview, and inventor of the LouseBuster;. He lives in Salt Lake City, UT.
Sarah E. Bush is an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah. She lives in Salt Lake City, UT.
Kevin P. Johnson is an associate research professor with the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is coauthor of The Chewing Lice: World Checklist and Biological Overview. He lives in Champaign, IL.