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Journal Article

Evolutionary contribution to coexistence of competitors in microbial food webs


Becks,  L.
Emmy-Noether-Group Community Dynamics, Department Evolutionary Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Hiltunen, T., Kaitala, V., Laakso, J., & Becks, L. (2017). Evolutionary contribution to coexistence of competitors in microbial food webs. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 284(1864): 20170415. doi:10.1098/rspb.2017.0415.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002E-257E-5
The theory of species coexistence is a key concept in ecology that has received much attention. The role of rapid evolution for determining species coexistence is still poorly understood although evolutionary change on ecological timescales has the potential to change almost any ecological process. The influence of evolution on coexistence can be especially pronounced in microbial communities where organisms often have large population sizes and short generation times. Previous work on coexistence has assumed that traits involved in resource use and species interactions are constant or change very slowly in terms of ecological time-scales. However, recent work suggests that these traits can evolve rapidly. Nevertheless, the importance of rapid evolution to coexistence has not been tested experimentally. Here, we show how rapid evolution alters the frequency of two bacterial competitors over time when grown together with specialist consumers (bacteriophages), a generalist consumer (protozoan) and all in combination. We find that consumers facilitate coexistence in a manner consistent with classic ecological theory. However, through disentangling the relative contributions of ecology (changes in consumer abundance) and evolution (changes in traits mediating species interactions) on the frequency of the two competitors over time,we find differences between the consumer types and combinations. Overall, our results indicate that the influence of evolution on species coexistence strongly depends on the traits and species interactions considered. © 2017 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.