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Measures of population genetic structure and diversity of disease-causing organisms
are commonly used to draw inferences regarding their evolutionary history and potential
to generate new variation in traits that determine interactions with their hosts.
Parasite species exhibit a range of population structures and life-history strategies,
including different transmission modes, life-cycle complexity, off-host survival mechanisms
and dispersal ability. These are important determinants of the frequency and predictability
of interactions with host species. Yet the complex causal relationships between spatial
structure, life history and the evolutionary dynamics of parasite populations are
not well understood. We demonstrate that a clear picture of the evolutionary potential
of parasitic organisms and their demographic and evolutionary histories can only come
from understanding the role of life history and spatial structure in influencing population
dynamics and epidemiological patterns.