This semester, my lab is having lab meetings where we alternate reading classic papers in disease ecology with newer papers on multihost and/or multiparasite interactions. So far, all the classic papers we’ve read have been by Anderson & May. I’ve read their papers over and over, and still take new things away from them every time. I sometimes feel like they covered everything there is to cover, at least in terms of theory – one thing that is interesting is how little data existed in the 70s and 80s for them to compare their models to.
For example, in rereading May & Anderson 1979, I was struck by this passage:
Because the generation times of most hosts are several orders of magnitude longer than those of their parasites, it is tempting to conclude that selection acts more rapidly on the parasites. However, the way parasitic infections act within host populations makes it likely that the parasites force the pace of host evolution to keep step with, or even ahead of, their own evolution.
I was struck by that because, in the system I’ve worked on the most, the host seems to be “ahead” of the parasite, and this is always something that people have a hard time wrapping their heads around when I present the research. Perhaps I should start including this quote in my talk!
Another line that I had forgotten about is this one:
Population dynamics is always confounded by population genetics
This is cryptic population dynamics, 30 years before that term was coined! (Like I said, Anderson & May covered everything.)
This got me to thinking about what papers I read repeatedly, and which ones I should be rereading but am not. Hurlbert is one that I revisit periodically. When I reread the PEG (Plankton Ecology Group) paper recently, I realized how many of the details of it I’d forgotten — including how many people contributed data to that paper. (I’ll have a post on that topic next week.)
What are the classic papers that you get new things out of when you reread them? (Neglected classics are welcome, too!)