Evolution of specialization and ecological character displacement along a gradient of plant quality.
Number of pages
Faculty of Science (FNWI)
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
We study the combined evolutionary dynamics of herbivore specialization and eco-logical character displacement, taking into
account foraging behavior of the herbivores, and a quality gradient of plant types. Herbivores can adapt by changing two adaptive
traits: their level of specialization in feeding efficiency and their point of maximum feeding efficiency along the plant
gradient. The number of herbivore phenotypes, their levels of specialization, and the amount of character displacement among
them are the result of the evolutionary dynamics, which is driven by the un-derlying population dynamics, which in turn is
driven by the underlying foraging behavior. Our analysis demonstrates broad conditions for the diversification of a herbivore
population into many specialized phenotypes, for basically any foraging behavior focusing utilization on highest gains while
also including errors. Our model predicts two characteristic phases in the adaptation of herbivore phenotypes: a fast `character
displacement¿ phase, and a slow `coevolutionary niche shift¿ phase. This two-phase pattern is expected to be of wide relevance
in various consumer-resource systems. Bringing together ecological character displacement and the evolution of specialization
in a single model, our study suggests that the foraging behavior of herbivorous arthropods is a key factor promoting specialist
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