Kayla King

Associate Professor in Parasite Biology

Tutorial Fellow, Christ Church


Research Interests

What drives rapid evolution? What are the benefits of sex? Why is genetic diversity so high in natural populations?

My research addresses these fundamental problems in evolutionary biology by studying the interactions between parasites and hosts. Parasites are ubiquitous, and their antagonism can be severe and genotype-specific. Thus, host-parasite interactions provide a powerful empirical framework to elucidate the causes and consequences of intra- and interspecific evolutionary changes. Our work focuses on the ecological and genetic aspects of rapid (co)evolution, with particular implications for community interactions, mating systems, and the maintenance of diversity.

My research uses a combination of mathematical modelling, experimental evolution of lab populations, and genetic analysis, experiments, and collections from natural populations. I have worked with many animal-parasite systems. Presently, my group concentrates on the (co)evolutionary interactions in three systems: (1) parasitoid wasp-“male-killing” bacteria, (2) Caenorhabditis elegans-bacteria pathogens, and (3) New Zealand snail-trematode parasites

I am keen to build a stimulating and collaborative research environment. Applicants for graduate and research fellow positions in my lab are welcome. Please send me your CV and a description of your research interests. 

Additional Information

American Naturalist Young Investigator Prize 2013.



Email: kayla.king@zoo.ox.ac.uk



Selected Publications

  • Ford, S.A., Kao, D., Williams, D., King, K.C. 2016. Microbe-mediated host defence drives the evolution of reduced pathogen virulence. Nature Communications 7, 13430.

  • King, K.C., Brockhurst, M.A., Vasieva, O., Paterson, S., Betts, A., Ford, S.A., Frost, C.L., Horsburgh, M., Haldenby, S., Hurst, G.D.D. 2016. Rapid evolution of microbe-mediated protection against pathogens in a worm host. The ISME Journal  10, 1915-1924.

  • Ford, S.A., King, K.C. 2016. Harnessing the power of defensive microbes: evolutionary implications in nature and disease control. PLoS Pathogens 12, e1005465.

  • Parratt, S.R., Frost, C.L., Schenkel, M.A., Rice, A., Hurst, G.D.D., King, K.C. 2016. Superparasitism drives heritable symbiont epidemiology and host sex ratio in a wasp. PLoS Pathogens 12, e1005629.

  • Betts, A., Gifford, D., MacLean, R.C., King, K.C. 2016. Parasite diversity drives rapid host dynamics and evolution of resistance in a bacteria-phage system. Evolution 70, 969-978.

  • Ashby, B, King, K.C. 2015. Diversity and the maintenance of sex by parasites. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 28, 511-520.

  • King, K.C., Lively, C.M. 2012. Can genetic diversity limit disease spread in host populations? Heredity 109, 199-203.

  • King, K.C., Jokela, J., Lively, C.M. 2011. Parasites, sex, and clonal diversity in natural snail populations. Evolution 65: 1474-1481.

  • King, K.C., Delph, L.F., Jokela, J., and Lively, C.M. 2009. The geographic mosaic of sex and the Red Queen. Current Biology 19, 1438-1441.