The evolution of resource specialization through frequency-dependent and frequency-independent mechanisms

The American Naturalist
Claus RuefflerJ A Metz


Levins's fitness set approach has shaped the intuition of many evolutionary ecologists about resource specialization: if the set of possible phenotypes is convex, a generalist is favored, while either of the two specialists is predicted for concave phenotype sets. An important aspect of Levins's approach is that it explicitly excludes frequency-dependent selection. Frequency dependence emerged in a series of models that studied the degree of character displacement of two consumers coexisting on two resources. Surprisingly, the evolutionary dynamics of a single consumer type under frequency dependence has not been studied in detail. We analyze a model of one evolving consumer feeding on two resources and show that, depending on the trait considered to be subject to evolutionary change, selection is either frequency independent or frequency dependent. This difference is explained by the effects different foraging traits have on the consumer-resource interactions. If selection is frequency dependent, then the population can become dimorphic through evolutionary branching at the trait value of the generalist. Those traits with frequency-independent selection, however, do indeed follow the predictions based on Levins's fitness set a...Continue Reading


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