On evolution under asymmetric competition

Research paper by Richard Law, Paul Marrow, Ulf Dieckmann

Indexed on: 01 Jul '97Published on: 01 Jul '97Published in: Evolutionary Ecology


The evolutionary consequences of asymmetric competition between species are poorly understood in comparison with symmetric competition. A model for evolution of body size under asymmetric competition within and between species is described. The model links processes operating at the scale of the individual to that of macroscopic evolution through a stochastic mutation–selection process. Phase portraits of evolution in a phenotype space characteristically show character convergence and parallel character shifts, with character divergence being relatively uncommon. The asymptotic states of evolution depend very much on the properties of asymmetric competition. Given relatively weak asymmetries between species, a single equilibrium point exists; this is a local attractor, and its position is determined by the intra- and interspecific asymmetries. When the asymmetries are made stronger, several fixed points may come about, creating further equilibrium points which are local attractors. It is also possible for periodic attractors to occur; such attractors comprise Red Queen dynamics with phenotype values that continue to change without ever settling down to constant values. From certain initial conditions, evolution leading to extinction of one of the species is also a likely outcome.