Data from: A theoretical model for host-controlled regulation of symbiont density



There is growing empirical evidence that hosts (such as insects and corals) actively control the density of their mutualistic symbionts according to their requirements. Such active regulation can be facilitated by compartmentalisation of symbionts within host tissues, which confers a high degree of control of the symbiosis to the host. Here, we build a general theoretical framework to predict the underlying ecological drivers and evolutionary consequences of host-controlled endosymbiont density regulation for a mutualistic association between a host and a compartmentalised, vertically transmitted symbiont. Building on the assumption that the costs and benefits of hosting a symbiont population increase with symbiont density, we use state-dependent dynamic programming to determine an optimal strategy for the host, i.e., that which maximises host fitness, when regulating the density of symbionts. Simulations of active host-controlled regulation governed by the optimal strategy predict that the density of the symbiont should converge to a constant level during host development, and following perturbation. However, a similar trend also emerges from alternative strategies of symbiont regulation. The strategy which maximises host fitness also promotes symbiont fitness compared to alternative strategies, suggesting that active host-controlled regulation of symbiont density could be adaptive for the symbiont as well as the host. Adaptation of the framework allowed the dynamics of symbiont density to be predicted for other host-symbiont ecologies, such as for non-essential symbionts, demonstrating the versatility of this modelling approach.
Date made available23 Apr 2024

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