Evolutionary divergence in competition strength

Competition is an important mechanism for understanding how species compete for resources and coexist, and is also an important process to understand biodiversity in nature. However, the traits that determine the outcome of interspecific competition are often assumed to be constant for each species. Many studies have shown rapid evolution in traits that can influence competition, but no study to date has quantified whether the strength of competition between two species is a heritable trait. My proposed summer research project will measure the strength of competition between two freshwater zooplankton species and quantify how much of this trait is heritable from one generation to the next. I plan to extend the results of the summer research project to a broader honors thesis project, which will determine how the spatial proximity of rock pools on the James River (Richmond, VA) influences (i) competition between zooplankton species and (ii) regional coexistence and biodiversity patterns in this natural system.

[Read more…]