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Am Nat. 2006 Jul;168(1):127-31. Epub 2006 May 11.

Chaotic dynamics can select for long-term dormancy.

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  • 1Unit of Biology and Physical Geography, University of British Columbia-Okanagan, 3333 University Way, Kelowna, British Columbia V1V 1V7, Canada.


Extended dormancy in a population is evolutionarily costly unless some variance in season-to-season fitness (usually driven by variance in environmental quality) makes bet hedging useful. Consequently, dormancy in a population is usually accepted as evidence of environmental variance. Using a Ricker-type model with heritable variation in dormancy, we show that this need not be so. Intrinsic population dynamics can generate chaotic fluctuations in the absence of environmental variance. Chaotic dynamics increase the frequency of a range of dormant strategists under natural selection, even when mortality during dormancy is relatively high. The buffering effect of dormant individuals then eliminates chaotic dynamics or generates periodic orbits of relatively low amplitude. These stabilized populations harbor a high frequency of dormant individuals that express a range of propensities to enter dormancy.

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