Papkou, A., Gokhale, C. S., Traulsen, A. & Schulenburg, H.
Host parasite co-evolution, Why changing population size matters
“Now here you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that” (The Red Queen) – Lewis Carroll (Through the Looking-Glass)
Host–parasite coevolution is widely assumed to have a major influence on biological evolution, especially as these interactions impose high selective pressure on the reciprocally interacting antagonists. The exact nature of the underlying dynamics is yet under debate and may be determined by recurrent selective sweeps (i.e., arms race dynamics), negative frequency-dependent selection (i.e., Red Queen dynamics), or a combination thereof. These interactions are often associated with reciprocally induced changes in population size, which, in turn, should have a strong impact on co-adaptation processes, yet are neglected in most current work on the topic. Here, we discuss potential consequences of temporal variations in population size on host–parasite coevolution. The limited empirical data available and the current theoretical literature in this field highlight that the consideration of such interaction-dependent population size changes is likely key for full understanding of the coevolutionary dynamics, and, thus, a more realistic view on the complex nature of species interactions.