I am an evolutionary ecologist interested in the evolution of life history strategies. I use mathematical models to study evolutionary problems in an ecological setting.
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Competition among small individuals hinders adaptive radiation despite ecological opportunity
Ontogenetic diet shifts, where individuals change their resource use during development, are the rule rather than the exception in the animal world. Here, we aim to understand how such changes in diet during development affect the conditions for an adaptive radiation in the presence of ecological opportunity. We use a size-structured consumer–resource model and the adaptive dynamics approach to study the ecological conditions for speciation. We assume that small individuals all feed on a shared resource. Large individuals, on the other hand, have access to multiple food sources on which they can specialize. We find that competition among small individuals can hinder an adaptive radiation to unfold, despite plenty of ecological opportunity for large individuals. When small individuals experience strong competition for food, they grow slowly and only a few individuals are recruited to the larger size classes. Hence, competition for food among large individuals is weak and there is therefore no disruptive selection. In addition, initial conditions determine if an adaptive radiation occurs or not. A consumer population initially dominated by small individuals will not radiate. On the other hand, a population initially dominated by large individuals may undergo adaptive radiation and diversify into multiple species.
ten Brink, H.; Seehausen, O. (2022) Competition among small individuals hinders adaptive radiation despite ecological opportunity, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 289(1971), 20212655 (10 pp.), doi:10.1098/rspb.2021.2655, Institutional Repository
Habitat deterioration promotes the evolution of direct development in metamorphosing species
Although metamorphosis is widespread in the animal kingdom, several species have evolved life-cycle modifications to avoid complete metamorphosis. Some species, for example, many salamanders and newts, have deleted the adult stage via a process called paedomorphosis. Others, for example, some frog species and marine invertebrates, no longer have a distinct larval stage and reach maturation via direct development. Here we study which ecological conditions can lead to the loss of metamorphosis via the evolution of direct development. To do so, we use size-structured consumer-resource models in conjunction with the adaptive-dynamics approach. In case the larval habitat deteriorates, individuals will produce larger offspring and in concert accelerate metamorphosis. Although this leads to the evolutionary transition from metamorphosis to direct development when the adult habitat is highly favorable, the population will go extinct in case the adult habitat does not provide sufficient food to escape metamorphosis. With a phylogenetic approach we furthermore show that among amphibians the transition of metamorphosis to direct development is indeed, in line with model predictions, conditional on and preceded by the evolution of larger egg sizes.
ten Brink, H.; Onstein, R. E.; de Roos, A. M. (2020) Habitat deterioration promotes the evolution of direct development in metamorphosing species, Evolution, International Journal of Organic Evolution, 74(8), 1826-1850, doi:10.1111/evo.14040, Institutional Repository
Disentangling verbal arguments: intralocus sexual conflict in haplodiploids
In haplodiploids, (1) alleles spend twice as many generations in females as in males, (2) males are never heterozygous and therefore express recessive alleles, and (3) males sire daughters but not sons. Intralocus sexual conflict therefore operates differently in haplodiploids than in diploids and shares strong similarities with loci on X (or Z) chromosomes. The common co-occurrence of all three features makes it difficult to pinpoint their respective roles. However, they do not always co-occur in nature, and missing cases can be additionally studied with hypothetical life cycles. We model sexually antagonistic alleles in eight different sex determination systems and find that arguments 1 and 2 promote invasion and fixation of female-beneficial and male-beneficial alleles, respectively; argument 2 also improves prospects for polymorphism. Argument 3 harms the invasion prospects of sexually antagonistic alleles (irrespective of which sex benefits) but promotes fixation should invasion nevertheless occur. Disentangling the features helps to evaluate the validity of previous verbal arguments and yields better-informed predictions about intralocus sexual conflict under different sex determination systems, including hitherto undiscovered ones.