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Theor Popul Biol. 1999 Jun;55(3):324-43.

Evolutionary dynamics of seed size and seedling competitive ability.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.


We present a model for the evolutionary dynamics of seed size when there is a trade-off between seed size and seed number, and seedlings from large seeds are better competitors and have a higher precompetitive survival than seedlings from small seeds. We find that strong competitive asymmetry, high resource levels, and intermediate harshness of the precompetitive environment favor coexistence of plants with different seed sizes. If the evolution of seed size is mutation-limited and single mutations have only a small phenotypic effect, then an initially monomorphic population reaches the final evolutionarily stable polymorphic state through one or more discrete evolutionary branching events. At each such branching event, a given lineage already present in the population divides into two phenotypically diverging daughter lines, each with its own seed size. If the precompetitive survival of seeds and seedlings is high for small and large seeds alike, however, evolutionary branching may be followed by the extinction of one or more lineages. Various results presented here are model-independent and point the way to a more general evolutionary bifurcation theory describing how the number and stability properties of evolutionary equilibria may change as a consequence of changes in model parameters.

Copyright 1999 Academic Press.

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