Sex allocation and population structure in malaria and related parasitic protozoa

Andrew Fraser Read, M. Anwar, D. Shutler, S. Nee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Here we demonstrate how sex allocation theory, one of the best verified areas of metazoan evolutionary biology, can be successfully applied to microparasitic organisms, by relating parasite prevalence and sex ratio in the Haemosporina. Members of this taxon, which includes Plasmodium, are parasitic protozoa with obligate sexual cycles in which dioecious haploid gametes drawn from the peripheral blood of a vertebrate host fuse within a dipteran vector. Consequently mating takes place within a highly subdivided population, a condition known to promote local mate competition and inbreeding and hence the evolution of female-biased sex ratios. We used an epidemiological framework to investigate mating patterns and sex ratio evolution within natural populations of these parasites. This phenotypic approach compliments more conventional biochemical approaches to the population genetics of parasitic protozoa. Data are presented which support a theoretical relation between transmission-stage sex ratio and prevalence across parasite populations. These results are consistent with a large inter-population variation in genetic structure and argue against sweeping generalizations about the clonality or otherwise of populations of these parasitic protozoa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-363
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1359
StatePublished - Jan 1 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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