Evolutionary double suicide in symbiotic systems

Yu Uchiumi, Masato Sato, Akira Sasaki

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Mutualism is thought to face a threat of coextinction cascade because the loss of a member species could lead to the extinction of the other member. Despite this common emphasis on the perils of such knock-on effect, hitherto, the evolutionary causes leading to extinction have been less emphasised. Here, we examine how extinction could be triggered in mutualism and whether an evolutionary response to partner loss could prevent collateral extinctions, by theoretically examining the coevolution of the host exploitation by symbionts and host dependence on symbiosis. Our model reveals that mutualism is more vulnerable to co-extinction through adaptive evolution (evolutionary double suicide) than parasitism. Additionally, it shows that the risk of evolutionary double suicide rarely promotes the backward evolution to an autonomous (non-symbiotic) state. Our results provide a new perspective on the evolutionary fragility of mutualism and the rarity of observed evolutionary transitions from mutualism to parasitism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-98
Number of pages12
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • adaptive dynamics
  • coevolution
  • evolutionary suicide
  • extinction
  • mutualism
  • parasitism
  • symbiosis


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