Evolution of Specialization and Ecological Character Displacement: Metabolic Plasticity Matters

  • Martijn Egas


An important question in evolutionary biology, especially with respect to herbivorous arthropods, is the evolution of specialization. In a previous paper the combined evolutionary dynamics of specialization and ecological character displacement was studied, focusing on the role of herbivore foraging behaviour. In this paper the robustness of these results is examined with respect to the assumption about the (metabolic) feeding efficiency function, changing it from a fixed to a plastic response. For low specialization costs, the model yields qualitatively similar results. Through the process of evolutionary branching, the herbivore population radiates into many specialized phenotypes for basically any level of sub-optimal foraging (where plant utilization is to some degree determined by the relative growth rate on each plant type). However, for an increased cost for specialization, the model loses its primary evolutionary equilibrium point. In this part of the parameter space there is run-away selection towards the ultimate generalist strategy. Under the conditions for evolutionary branching, the model predicts host race formation and sympatric speciation in herbivorous arthropods when mating is host-plant associated.


evolution specialization resource gradient ecological character displacement foraging behaviour adaptive radiation metabolic plasticity 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martijn Egas
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem DynamicsUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdam

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