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Continual evolution through coupled fast and slow feedbacks

By Meike T. Wortel, Han Peters, Juan A. Bonachela, Nils Christian Stenseth

Posted 07 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/513416 (published DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1916345117)

The Red Queen Hypothesis, which suggests that continual evolution can result from solely biotic interactions, has been studied in macroevolutionary and microevolutionary contexts. While microevolutionary studies have described examples in which evolution does not cease, understanding which general conditions lead to continual evolution or to stasis remains a major challenge. In many cases, it is unclear which experimental features or model assumptions are necessary for the observed continual evolution to emerge, and whether the described behavior is robust to variations in the given setup. Here, we aim to find the minimal set of conditions under which continual evolution occurs. To this end, we present a theoretical framework that does not assume any specific functional form and, therefore, can be applied to a wide variety of systems. Our framework is also general enough to cast predictions about both monomorphic and polymorphic populations. We show that the combination of a fast positive and a slow negative feedback causes continual evolution to emerge even from the evolution of one single evolving trait, provided that the ecological timescale is sufficiently separated from the timescales of mutation and the negative feedback. Our approach and results thus contribute to a deeper understanding of the evolutionary dynamics resulting from biotic interactions.

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