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J Exp Bot. 2009;60(11):2957-70. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erp168. Epub 2009 Jun 15.

Role of coevolution in generating biological diversity: spatially divergent selection trajectories.

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Department of Applied Biology, PO Box 27 (Latokartanonkaari 7), FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.


The Geographic Mosaic Theory of Coevolution predicts that divergent coevolutionary selection produces genetic differentiation across populations. The 29 studies reviewed here support this hypothesis as they all report spatially diverged selection trajectories which have generated variable outcomes in the interaction traits among populations. This holds for both mutualistic interactions such as those between host plants and their root symbionts, or plants and their pollinators, as well as for antagonistic interactions such as plants and their pathogens or herbivores. Most often, it is the strength of selection that varies across landscapes. Variation may be generated by both the physical environment (namely temperature), and the local community--competitors, parasites, and alternative hosts--that intensify or dilute selection locally for a wide range of species interactions. At its extreme, selection trajectories may be reversed with an antagonistic interaction being commensalistic in some populations and mutualistic in yet others, depending on the local community context. Selection trajectories were found to diverge among continents, but also more locally among neighbouring populations and even within a single population. This result highlights the importance of coevolutionary selection generating biological diversity with far-reaching implications for both biodiversity conservation as well as applied biology.

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