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Theor Popul Biol. 2010 Mar;77(2):95-104. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2009.10.007. Epub 2009 Nov 4.

The risk of competitive exclusion during evolutionary branching: effects of resource variability, correlation and autocorrelation.

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  • 1Department of Theoretical Ecology, Ecology building, Lund University, SE-22362, Sweden.


Evolutionary branching has been suggested as a mechanism to explain ecological speciation processes. Recent studies indicate however that demographic stochasticity and environmental fluctuations may prevent branching through stochastic competitive exclusion. Here we extend previous theory in several ways; we use a more mechanistic ecological model, we incorporate environmental fluctuations in a more realistic way and we include environmental autocorrelation in the analysis. We present a single, comprehensible analytical result which summarizes most effects of environmental fluctuations on evolutionary branching driven by resource competition. Corroborating earlier findings, we show that branching may be delayed or impeded if the underlying resources have uncorrelated or negatively correlated responses to environmental fluctuations. There is also a strong impeding effect of positive environmental autocorrelation, which can be related to results from recent experiments on adaptive radiation in bacterial microcosms. In addition, we find that environmental fluctuations can lead to cycles of repeated branching and extinction.

Copyright 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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