- A Parent-Offspring Trade-Off Limits the Evolution of an Ontogenetic Niche Shift
- American Naturalist
- Volume | Issue number
- 190 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Many free-living animal species, including the majority of fish, insects, and amphibians, change their food and habitat during their life. Even though these ontogenetic changes in niche are common, it is not well understood which ecological conditions have favored the evolution of these shifts. Using an adaptive dynamics approach, we show that it is evolutionarily advantageous to switch to an alternative food source in the course of ontogeny when this results in a higher intake rate for the switching consumers. Individuals are, however, not able to specialize on this new food source when this negatively affects the performance early in life on the original food source. Selection on these early life stages is so strong that in species with a complete diet shift, evolution results in large juveniles and adults that are maladapted to the alternative food source while their offspring are specialized on the original food source when young. These outcomes suggest strong selection to decouple the different life stages, such that they can maximize their performance on different food sources independently from each other. Metamorphosis could be a way to decouple the different life stages and therefore evolve in species that feed on multiple food sources during their life.
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