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Unexpected discontinuities in life-history evolution under size-dependent mortality

, : Unexpected discontinuities in life-history evolution under size-dependent mortality. Proceedings. Biological Sciences 270(1516): 713-721

In many organisms survival depends on body size. We investigate the implications of size-selective mortality on life-history evolution by introducing and analysing a new and particularly flexible life-history model with the following key features: the lengths of growth and reproductive periods in successive reproductive cycles can vary evolutionarily, the model does not constrain evolution to patterns of either determinate or indeterminate growth, and lifetime number and sizes of broods are the outcomes of evolutionarily optimal life-history decisions. We find that small changes in environmental conditions can lead to abrupt transitions in optimal life histories when size-dependent mortality is sufficiently strong. Such discontinuous switching results from antagonistic selection pressures and occurs between strategies of early maturation with short reproductive periods and late maturation with long reproductive cycles. When mortality is size-selective and the size-independent component is not too high, selection favours prolonged juvenile growth, thereby allowing individuals to reach a mortality refuge at large body size before the onset of reproduction. When either component of mortality is then increased, the mortality refuge first becomes unattractive and eventually closes up altogether, resulting in short juvenile growth and frequent reproduction. Our results suggest a new mechanism for the evolution of life-history dimorphisms.


PMID: 12713745

DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2002.2255

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