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Trends Ecol Evol. 2013 Feb;28(2):78-85. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2012.08.024. Epub 2012 Sep 20.

Founder takes all: density-dependent processes structure biodiversity.

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Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Department of Zoology, University of Otago, 340 Great King Street, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand.


Density-dependent processes play a key role in the spatial structuring of biodiversity. Specifically, interrelated demographic processes, such as gene surfing, high-density blocking, and competitive exclusion, can generate striking geographic contrasts in the distributions of genes and species. Here, we propose that well-studied evolutionary and ecological biogeographic patterns of postglacial recolonization, progressive island colonization, microbial sectoring, and even the 'Out of Africa' pattern of human expansion, are fundamentally similar, underpinned by a 'founder takes all' density-dependent principle. Additionally, we hypothesize that older historic constraints of density-dependent processes are seen today in the dramatic biogeographic shifts that occur in response to human-mediated extinction events, whereby surviving lineages rapidly expand their ranges to replace extinct sister taxa.

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