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Trends Ecol Evol. 2006 May;21(5):238-45. Epub 2006 Mar 24.

Disruptive selection and then what?

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Toronto, 25 Harbord Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 3G5.


Disruptive selection occurs when extreme phenotypes have a fitness advantage over more intermediate phenotypes. The phenomenon is particularly interesting when selection keeps a population in a disruptive regime. This can lead to increased phenotypic variation while disruptive selection itself is diminished or eliminated. Here, we review processes that increase phenotypic variation in response to disruptive selection and discuss some of the possible outcomes, such as sympatric species pairs, sexual dimorphisms, phenotypic plasticity and altered community assemblages. We also identify factors influencing the likelihoods of these different outcomes.

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