Stochastic impediments to biological diversification

Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis, USA

Carl Boettiger

Carl Boettiger

Rapid evolution and diversification plays an essential role in the formation of biodiversity and in the response of species and ecosystems to anthropogenic forces such as climate change, harvesting, invasions by introduced species, or treatment with pesticides or antibiotics.

A particularly important evolutionary response involves biological diversification, causing an existing lineage to split into new forms or species. Traditional approaches to describing such evolutionary branching assume that fluctuating ecological conditions can be approximated by their equilibrium values when considering dynamics over longer evolutionary timescales.

However, the fluctuations in natural populations due to demographic and environmental factors can have a significant impact upon their evolution. On the short timescales characteristic of anthropogenic evolution, the impacts of these fluctuations will be even more pronounced.

The goal of this project is to devise a theoretical framework for understanding the impacts of demographic and environmental variation on evolutionary branching. We will develop numerical simulations and analytic approximations to quantify these impacts and determine under what conditions such fluctuations promote, frustrate, or forever prevent evolutionary branching.

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Last edited: 24 March 2016

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