Gillespie eco-evolutionary models (GEMs) reveal the role of heritable trait variation in eco-evolutionary dynamics.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Heritable trait variation is a central and necessary ingredient of evolution. Trait variation also directly affects ecological processes, generating a clear link between evolutionary and ecological dynamics. Despite the changes in variation that occur through selection, drift, mutation, and recombination, current eco-evolutionary models usually fail to track how variation changes through time. Moreover, eco-evolutionary models assume fitness functions for each trait and each ecological context, which often do not have empirical validation. We introduce a new type of model, Gillespie eco-evolutionary models (GEMs), that resolves these concerns by tracking distributions of traits through time as eco-evolutionary dynamics progress. This is done by allowing change to be driven by the direct fitness consequences of model parameters within the context of the underlying ecological model, without having to assume a particular fitness function. GEMs work by adding a trait distribution component to the standard Gillespie algorithm - an approach that models stochastic systems in nature that are typically approximated through ordinary differential equations. We illustrate GEMs with the Rosenzweig-MacArthur consumer-resource model. We show not only how heritable trait variation fuels trait evolution and influences eco-evolutionary dynamics, but also how the erosion of variation through time may hinder eco-evolutionary dynamics in the long run. GEMs can be developed for any parameter in any ordinary differential equation model and, furthermore, can enable modeling of multiple interacting traits at the same time. We expect GEMs will open the door to a new direction in eco-evolutionary and evolutionary modeling by removing long-standing modeling barriers, simplifying the link between traits, fitness, and dynamics, and expanding eco-evolutionary treatment of a greater diversity of ecological interactions. These factors make GEMs much more than a modeling advance, but an important conceptual advance that bridges ecology and evolution through the central concept of heritable trait variation.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • DeLong, JP; Gibert, JP

Published Date

  • February 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 6 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 935 - 945

PubMed ID

  • 26941937

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC4761774

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2045-7758

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2045-7758

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/ece3.1959


  • eng