Today, fishing is the dominant source of mortality in most commercially exploited fish stocks, leading to changes in the life-history patterns of fish and their parasites. Fishery thus acts as an external constraint influencing the evolution of virulence.
This may pose serious threats to exploited stocks and to their value as resources for humankind. So far, however, there has been no systematic attempt to investigate the effect of fisheries on parasite virulence evolution.
It is very difficult to ad hoc assess the implications that fishing activity may have on the evolution of virulence. Thus, modelling presents the adequate means of exploring this complex problem.
In general, models of virulence evolution focus on the co-evolution of host and parasitoid under a non-changing environment using mathematical equations. But dealing with fishery-induced evolutionary change requires a new type of models be developed.
These models have to do justice both to the ecological and the genetic intricacies involved in the dynamics of a particular stock with its pathogens and predators. Thus, an individual-based model capturing individual variation in behaviour and coupled with genetic algorithms will be used for generating and testing hypotheses.
The primary objective of t he project is to investigate evolution of parasitic virulence and its consequences under selective harvesting regimes. The secondary objective is using the model as a tool for assessing adequate stock exploitation rates.
The project will thus lead to important insights regarding both ecological theory and the sustainable management of an important food resource for humankind.
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