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Adaptive Evolution in Ecological Communities

Figure 1

The effects of community complexity on natural selection and evolution.

This figure presents a hypothetical case where increasing complexity in a predator–prey community alters natural selection and the evolutionary response of a single prey population. Panel (A) depicts the genetic covariance between relative fitness and a specific resistance trait in the prey, where the slope of the line is the strength of selection on the resistance trait. The blue dotted line and circles represent a simple community composed of a single prey and a single predator population. The red dashed line and triangles represent a more complex community composed of the same prey species but in the presence of two predator species. Panel (B) shows how the prey species evolves in response to these selective pressures caused by different predator communities. The black line represents the ancestral trait distribution, whereas the dotted and dashed lines represent trait distributions after selection in the simple and complex communities, respectively. Benkman and colleagues identified a similar situation occurring in Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine, which is fed upon by red crossbills and red squirrels [37]. In populations without squirrels, crossbills selected for and caused evolution of longer cones with thicker distal scales and more seeds per cone. When crossbills and squirrels were both present, squirrels imposed stronger selection on cone morphology, which caused the evolution of shorter cones with fewer seeds that had thinner distal scales but thicker basal scales. The presence versus absence of squirrels also altered selection by trees on crossbill bill morphology. Therefore, the presence of squirrels altered selection and coevolution between crossbills and pine trees.

Figure 1

doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001332.g001