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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 5;8(8):e71125. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071125. Print 2013.

Integrating evolution into ecological modelling: accommodating phenotypic changes in agent based models.

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School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London, London, United Kingdom.


Evolutionary change is a characteristic of living organisms and forms one of the ways in which species adapt to changed conditions. However, most ecological models do not incorporate this ubiquitous phenomenon. We have developed a model that takes a 'phenotypic gambit' approach and focuses on changes in the frequency of phenotypes (which differ in timing of breeding and fecundity) within a population, using, as an example, seasonal breeding. Fitness per phenotype calculated as the individual's contribution to population growth on an annual basis coincide with the population dynamics per phenotype. Simplified model variants were explored to examine whether the complexity included in the model is justified. Outputs from the spatially implicit model underestimated the number of individuals across all phenotypes. When no phenotype transitions are included (i.e. offspring always inherit their parent's phenotype) numbers of all individuals are always underestimated. We conclude that by using a phenotypic gambit approach evolutionary dynamics can be incorporated into individual based models, and that all that is required is an understanding of the probability of offspring inheriting the parental phenotype.

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