Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Coevolution with host fishes shapes parasitic life histories in a group of freshwater mussels (Unionidae: Quadrulini)

July 18, 2023

Ecological interactions among species often lead to parasitic lineages coevolving with host resources, which is often suggested as the primary driver of parasite diversification. Freshwater mussels are bivalves that possess a parasitic life cycle requiring larval encystment on freshwater vertebrates to complete metamorphosis. The North American freshwater mussel tribe Quadrulini has a suite of life history adaptations including highly specialized patterns of host use, infection strategies, and variable larval morphologies. However, the evolution of life histories has yet to be explored using phylogenetic comparative methods. In this study, we use a holistic approach incorporating biogeographical, ecological, molecular, and morphological datasets to reconstruct the evolution of Quadrulini. Comparative phylogenetic analyses suggested the diversification of Quadrulini has been driven, at least in part, by codiversification with their primary host fishes in Ictaluridae. Major diversification events in both ictalurids and quadrulines were estimated to have occurred in the Mississippi River basin throughout the Miocene. Life history characteristics associated with parasitism were supported to have coevolved with host repertories, supporting the hypothesis that ecological interactions with host fishes have shaped the evolution of highly specialized traits in this group. Our findings demonstrate the importance of ecological interactions with host resources in shaping the evolutionary history of freshwater mussels.

Publication Year 2023
Title Coevolution with host fishes shapes parasitic life histories in a group of freshwater mussels (Unionidae: Quadrulini)
DOI 10.18061/bssb.v2i1.8998
Authors Sakina Neemuchwala, Nathan Johnson, John M. Pfeiffer, Manuel Lopes-Lima, Andre Gomes-dos-Santos, Elsa Froufe, David M. Hillis, Chase H. Smith
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists
Index ID 70247322
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center