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Loss of consumers constrains phenotypic evolution in the resulting food web


Barbour, Matthew A; Greyson‐Gaito, Christopher J; Sotoodeh, Arezoo; Locke, Brendan; Bascompte, Jordi (2020). Loss of consumers constrains phenotypic evolution in the resulting food web. Evolution Letters, 4(3):266-277.

Abstract

The loss of biodiversity is altering the structure of ecological networks; however, we are currently in a poor position to predict how these altered communities will affect the evolution of remaining populations. Theory on fitness landscapes provides a framework for predicting how selection alters the evolutionary trajectory and adaptive potential of populations, but often treats the network of interacting populations as a “black box.” Here, we integrate ecological networks and fitness landscapes to examine how changes in food‐web structure shape phenotypic evolution. We conducted a field experiment that removed a guild of larval parasitoids that imposed direct and indirect selection pressures on an insect herbivore. We then measured herbivore survival as a function of three key phenotypic traits to estimate directional, quadratic, and correlational selection gradients in each treatment. We used these selection gradients to characterize the slope and curvature of the fitness landscape to understand the direct and indirect effects of consumer loss on phenotypic evolution. We found that the number of traits under directional selection increased with the removal of larval parasitoids, indicating evolution was more constrained toward a specific combination of traits. Similarly, we found that the removal of larval parasitoids altered the curvature of the fitness landscape in such a way that tended to decrease the evolvability of the traits we measured in the next generation. Our results suggest that the loss of trophic interactions can impose greater constraints on phenotypic evolution. This indicates that the simplification of ecological communities may constrain the adaptive potential of remaining populations to future environmental change.

Abstract

The loss of biodiversity is altering the structure of ecological networks; however, we are currently in a poor position to predict how these altered communities will affect the evolution of remaining populations. Theory on fitness landscapes provides a framework for predicting how selection alters the evolutionary trajectory and adaptive potential of populations, but often treats the network of interacting populations as a “black box.” Here, we integrate ecological networks and fitness landscapes to examine how changes in food‐web structure shape phenotypic evolution. We conducted a field experiment that removed a guild of larval parasitoids that imposed direct and indirect selection pressures on an insect herbivore. We then measured herbivore survival as a function of three key phenotypic traits to estimate directional, quadratic, and correlational selection gradients in each treatment. We used these selection gradients to characterize the slope and curvature of the fitness landscape to understand the direct and indirect effects of consumer loss on phenotypic evolution. We found that the number of traits under directional selection increased with the removal of larval parasitoids, indicating evolution was more constrained toward a specific combination of traits. Similarly, we found that the removal of larval parasitoids altered the curvature of the fitness landscape in such a way that tended to decrease the evolvability of the traits we measured in the next generation. Our results suggest that the loss of trophic interactions can impose greater constraints on phenotypic evolution. This indicates that the simplification of ecological communities may constrain the adaptive potential of remaining populations to future environmental change.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Adaptive landscape, community context, eco-evolutionary dynamics, ecological networks, extinction, fitness landscape, host–parasitoid, natural selection
Language:English
Date:1 June 2020
Deposited On:11 Feb 2021 10:15
Last Modified:01 Mar 2021 16:29
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:2056-3744
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/evl3.170
PubMed ID:32547786

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