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J Theor Biol. 2014 Feb 21;343:162-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2013.10.018. Epub 2013 Nov 7.

The evolutionary and behavioral modification of consumer responses to environmental change.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, 25 Harbord St., Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 3G5. Electronic address:


How will evolution or other forms of adaptive change alter the response of a consumer species' population density to environmentally driven changes in population growth parameters? This question is addressed by analyzing some simple consumer-resource models to separate the ecological and evolutionary components of the population's response. Ecological responses are always decreased population size, but evolution of traits that have effects on both resource uptake rate and another fitness-related parameter may magnify, offset, or reverse this population decrease. Evolution can change ecologically driven decreases in population size to increases; this is likely when: (1) resources are initially below the density that maximizes resource growth, and (2) the evolutionary response decreases the consumer's resource uptake rate. Evolutionary magnification of the ecological decreases in population size can occur when the environmental change is higher trait-independent mortality. Such evolution-driven decreases are most likely when uptake-rate traits increase and the resource is initially below its maximum growth density. It is common for the difference between the new eco-evolutionary equilibrium and the new ecological equilibrium to be larger than that between the original and new ecological equilibrium densities. The relative magnitudes of ecological and evolutionary effects often depend sensitively on the magnitude of the environmental change and the nature of resource growth.


Compensatory effect; Consumer–resource; Eco–evo; Evolutionary impact on population; Overexploitation

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