Variability in life-history switch points across and within populations explained by Adaptive Dynamics
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Understanding the factors that shape the timing of life-history switch points (SPs; e.g. hatching, metamorphosis and maturation) is a fundamental question in evolutionary ecology. Previous studies examining this question from a fitness optimization perspective have advanced our understanding of why the timing of life-history transitions may vary across populations and environments. However, in nature we also often observe variability among individuals within populations. Optimization theory, which typically predicts a single optimal SP under physiological and environmental constraints for a given environment, cannot explain this variability. Here, we re-examine the evolution of a single life-history SP between juvenile and adult stages from an Adaptive Dynamics (AD) perspective, which explicitly considers the feedback between the dynamics of population and the evolution of life-history strategy. The AD model, although simple in structure, exhibits a diverse range of evolutionary scenarios depending upon demographic and environmental conditions, including the loss of the juvenile stage, a single optimal SP, alternative optimal SPs depending on the initial phenotype, and sympatric coexistence of two SP phenotypes under disruptive selection. Such predictions are consistent with previous optimization approaches in predicting life-history SP variability across environments and between populations, and in addition they also explain within-population variability by sympatric disruptive selection. Thus, our model can be used as a theoretical tool for understanding life-history variability across environments and, especially, within species in the same environment.
- RESEARCH: Hui C