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Nat Commun. 2014 Oct 22;5:5226. doi: 10.1038/ncomms6226.

Consumer co-evolution as an important component of the eco-evolutionary feedback.

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Department of Food and Environmental Sciences/Microbiology and Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 65, Helsinki 00014, Finland.
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Department of Evolutionary Ecology, Community Dynamics Group, August Thienemann Strasse 2, 24306 Plön, Germany.


Rapid evolution in ecologically relevant traits has recently been recognized to significantly alter the interaction between consumers and their resources, a key interaction in all ecological communities. While these eco-evolutionary dynamics have been shown to occur when prey populations are evolving, little is known about the role of predator evolution and co-evolution between predator and prey in this context. Here, we investigate the role of consumer co-evolution for eco-evolutionary feedback in bacteria-ciliate microcosm experiments by manipulating the initial trait variation in the predator populations. With co-evolved predators, prey evolve anti-predatory defences faster, trait values are more variable, and predator and prey population sizes are larger at the end of the experiment compared with the non-co-evolved predators. Most importantly, differences in predator traits results in a shift from evolution driving ecology, to ecology driving evolution. Thus we demonstrate that predator co-evolution has important effects on eco-evolutionary dynamics.

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