Red Queen dancing in the lek: Effects of mating skew on host-parasite interactions

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The RQH (Red Queen hypothesis), which argues that hosts need to be continuously finding new ways to avoid parasites that are able to infect common host genotypes, has been at the center of discussions on the maintenance of sex. This is because diversity is favored under the host-parasite coevolution based on negative frequency-dependent selection, and sexual reproduction is a mechanism that generates genetic diversity in the host population. Together with parasite infections, sexual organisms are usually under sexual selection, which leads to mating skew or mating success biased toward males with a particular phenotype. Thus, strong mating skew would affect genetic variance in a population and should affect the benefit of the RQH. However, most models have investigated the RQH under a random mating system and not under mating skew. In this study, I show that sexual selection and the resultant mating skew may increase parasite load in the hosts. An IBM (individual-based model), which included host-parasite interactions and sexual selection among hosts, demonstrates that mating skew influenced parasite infection in the hosts under various conditions. Moreover, the IBM showed that the mating skew evolves easily in cases of male-male competition and female mate choice, even though it imposes an increased risk of parasite infection on the hosts. These findings indicated that whether the RQH favored sexual reproduction depended on the condition of mating skew. That is, consideration of the host mating system would provide further understanding of conditions in which the RQH favors sexual reproduction in real organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5432-5440
Number of pages9
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Nov 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Female choice
  • Host-parasite coevolution
  • Individual-based model
  • Maintenance of sex
  • Male-male competition
  • Red Queen hypothesis
  • Sexual selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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