University of Oulu

Antonovics J et al. 2017 The evolution of transmission mode. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 372: 20160083.

The evolution of transmission mode

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Author: Antonovics, Janis1; Wilson, Anthony J.2; Forbes, Mark R.3;
Organizations: 1Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, U
2Integrative Entomology group, Vector-borne Viral Diseases programme, The Pirbright Institute, Pirbright GU24 0NF, UK
3Department of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1S 587
4Department of Biodiversity and Molecular Ecology, Research and Innovation Centre, Fondazione Edmund Mach, Via E. Mach 1, 38010 S. Michele all’Adige, Trentino, Italy
5Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyvaskyla, PO Box 35, 40014 Jyvaskyla, Finland
6Department of Ecology, University of Oulu, PO Box 3000, 90014 Oulu, Finland
7Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EH, UK
8Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Cornwall TR10 9FE, UK
9Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW5 7BD, UK
10School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
11Department of Pathology and Pathogen Biology, Centre for Emerging, Endemic and Exotic Diseases, Royal Veterinary College, University of London, London AL9 7TA, UK
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Royal Society Publishing, 2017
Publish Date: 2021-03-01


This article reviews research on the evolutionary mechanisms leading to different transmission modes. Such modes are often under genetic control of the host or the pathogen, and often in conflict with each other via trade-offs. Transmission modes may vary among pathogen strains and among host populations. Evolutionary changes in transmission mode have been inferred through experimental and phylogenetic studies, including changes in transmission associated with host shifts and with evolution of the unusually complex life cycles of many parasites. Understanding the forces that determine the evolution of particular transmission modes presents a fascinating medley of problems for which there is a lack of good data and often a lack of conceptual understanding or appropriate methodologies. Our best information comes from studies that have been focused on the vertical versus horizontal transmission dichotomy. With other kinds of transitions, theoretical approaches combining epidemiology and population genetics are providing guidelines for determining when and how rapidly new transmission modes may evolve, but these are still in need of empirical investigation and application to particular cases. Obtaining such knowledge is a matter of urgency in relation to extant disease threats.

This article is part of the themed issue ‘Opening the black box: re-examining the ecology and evolution of parasite transmission’.

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Series: Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological sciences
ISSN: 0962-8436
ISSN-E: 1471-2970
ISSN-L: 0962-8436
Volume: 372
Issue: 1719
Article number: 20160083
DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0083
Type of Publication: A2 Review article in a scientific journal
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: J.A is supported by grants NSF DEB1115895 and NIH R01GM122061 as part of the joint NSF-NIH-USDA Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases program. A.J.W. is supported by UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council grant BBS/E/I/00002066. M.R.F. is supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant. H.C.H. is supported by Fondazione E. Mach and the Autonomous Province of Trento under the ‘Trentino programme of research, training and mobility of post-doctoral researchers' Incoming Team project ECOBIOME (EU FP7 Marie Curie actions COFUND: 2011 Call). E.R.K. is supported by Academy of Finland, grant 250524. H.C.L. is supported by Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. B.L. is supported by NERC grant (NE/L004232/1) and a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship jointly funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society (grant no. 109356/Z/15/Z). B.O. is supported by NERC grant (NE/N005902/1). S.M.S. is supported by NERC grant (NE/H021256/1). J.P.W. is supported by ZELS research grant (combined BBSRC, MRC, ESRC, NERC, DSTL and DFID: BB/L018985/1).
Copyright information: © 2017 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.