What's this about?

This is a live browser simulation of parasite and host co-evolution, turning them into sound in order to explore new ways of understanding natural processes. This is part of the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease research group at the University of Exeter and was built by FoAM Kernow

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A beginners guide to co-evolutionary dynamics

The graphs show the evolution of parasites and their hosts. The two organisms are reacting to each other as they evolve. Hosts evolve to become more resistant to their parasites, while parasites evolve to become better at infecting their hosts. There is a cost involved in being highly resistant, or highly infectious so the organism tend to inhabit sweet spots, which may change over time.

This evolution can give rise to 'fixation' where one host and one parasite type settle on a stable strategy, branching where multiple strains of host or pathogen emerge and find stable strategies, or cycles of co-evolution where the host and parasite continue to evolve in an arms race against each other.

Things we don't understand

  • All the patterns of co-evolutionay relationship possible.
  • What causes jumps from one pattern to the other.
  • The best ways of understanding all the data we generate.


Turning information into sound can be a way to experience patterns in data differently in order to gain new insights.

Here we are still experimenting with different ways of doing this, combining rhythmic and pitch changes to focus on what we are interested in.

At the moment, the rhythm corresponds to the number of strains of host and parasite – the more strains, the faster the rhythm – and the pitch corresponds to how resistant the host is and how infectious the parasite is. As evolution between the hosts and parasites progresses, snapshots are taken – the host and parasite status at that point in time are played as consecutive sounds.

You can read more about our research into sonfication here.

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