Multihost parasites can infect different types of hosts or even different host species. Epidemiological models have shown the importance of the diversity of potential hosts for understanding the dynamics of infectious disease (e.g., the importance of reservoirs), but the consequences of this diversity for virulence and transmission evolution remain largely overlooked. Here, I present a general theoretical framework for the study of life-history evolution of multihost parasites. This analysis highlights the importance of epidemiology (the relative quality and quantity of different types of infected hosts) and between-trait constraints (both within and between different hosts) to parasite evolution. I illustrate these effects in different transmission scenarios under the simplifying assumption that parasites can infect only two types of hosts. These simple but contrasted evolutionary scenarios yield new insights into virulence evolution and the evolution of transmission routes among different hosts. Because many of the pathogens that have large public-health and agricultural impacts have complex life cycles, an understanding of their evolutionary dynamics could hold substantial benefits for management.
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Vol. 58 • No. 3