Unifying ecology and macroevolution with individual-based theory

James Rosindell*, Luke J. Harmon, Rampal S. Etienne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterAcademicpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A contemporary goal in both ecology and evolutionary biology is to develop theory that transcends the boundary between the two disciplines, to understand phenomena that cannot be explained by either field in isolation. This is challenging because macroevolution typically uses lineage-based models, whereas ecology often focuses on individual organisms. Here, we develop a new parsimonious individual-based theory by adding mild selection to the neutral theory of biodiversity. We show that this model generates realistic phylogenies showing a slowdown in diversification and also improves on the ecological predictions of neutral theory by explaining the occurrence of very common species. Moreover, we find the distribution of individual fitness changes over time, with average fitness increasing at a pace that depends positively on community size. Consequently, large communities tend to produce fitter species than smaller communities. These findings have broad implications beyond biodiversity theory, potentially impacting, for example, invasion biology and paleontology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)472-482
Number of pages11
JournalEcology Letters
Volume18
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May-2015

Keywords

  • Ecology
  • fitness
  • individual-based model
  • lineages-through-time
  • macroevolution
  • neutral
  • phylogeny
  • selection
  • species abundance
  • theory
  • SPECIES ABUNDANCE DISTRIBUTIONS
  • UNIFIED-NEUTRAL-THEORY
  • COMMUNITY ECOLOGY
  • PROTRACTED SPECIATION
  • TROPICAL FORESTS
  • NUMBERS ADD
  • RED QUEEN
  • BIODIVERSITY
  • NICHE
  • EVOLUTION

Cite this