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Scientific Reports


Ecological and evolutionary pressures on hosts and parasites jointly determine infection success. In pollinators, parasite exposure to floral phytochemicals may influence between-host transmission and within-host replication. In the bumble bee parasite Crithidia bombi, strains vary in phytochemical resistance, and resistance increases under in vitro selection, implying that resistance/infectivity trade-offs could maintain intraspecific variation in resistance. We assessed costs and benefits of in vitro selection for resistance to the floral phytochemical eugenol on C. bombi infection in Bombus impatiens fed eugenol-rich and eugenol-free diets. We also assessed infection-induced changes in host preferences for eugenol. In vitro, eugenol-exposed cells initially increased in size, but normalized during adaptation. Selection for eugenol resistance resulted in considerable (55%) but non-significant reductions in infection intensity; bee colony and body size were the strongest predictors of infection. Dietary eugenol did not alter infection, and infected bees preferred eugenol-free over eugenol-containing solutions. Although direct effects of eugenol exposure could influence between-host transmission at flowers, dietary eugenol did not ameliorate infection in bees. Limited within-host benefits of resistance, and possible trade-offs between resistance and infectivity, may relax selection for eugenol resistance and promote inter-strain variation in resistance. However, infection-induced dietary shifts could influence pollinator-mediated selection on floral traits.




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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


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