Specialization, evolution and coexistence in a community context

Ellen van Velzen

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Ecology and evolutionary biology have long been regarded as separate fields, due to the common belief that the two processes operate on different timescales and do not affect each other. As evidence for rapid evolution in nature has accumulated, recent years have seen a renewed interest in the interplay between ecology and evolution, also known as eco-evolutionary dynamics; and it has become evident that feedbacks between ecology and evolution can yield results that would not be predicted by considering either process by itself. In this thesis, I studied eco-evolutionary dynamics in the context of trophic interactions in two types of systems: plant-herbivore interactions and multiparasitoid-host interactions. My main focus was to study the effect of eco-evolutionary dynamics on the evolution and coexistence of divergent strategies in the trophic level under study (different specialization strategies in herbivores; defense strategies in plants; and parasitization strategies in parasitoids). I found that eco-evolutionary dynamics often promoted evolutionary divergence into different strategies, but more often than not impaired stable coexistence of said strategies. Destabilization of coexistence occurs when there is a strong feedback between evolution and ecological dynamics on both trophic levels, driving large changes in ecological dynamics (e.g. fluctuations in abundance) which in turn affect selection. Stable coexistence, on the other hand, appears to be promoted when evolutionary change mostly affects competitors, and therefore ecological dynamics, on the same trophic level.
Translated title of the contributionSpecialisatie, evolutie en coëxistentie in de context van een samenleving
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Etienne, Rampal, Supervisor
Award date2-Mar-2015
Place of Publication[S.l.]
Print ISBNs978-90-367-7720-9
Electronic ISBNs978-90-367-7719-3
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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