Starve a competitor: evolution of luxury consumption as a competitive strategy

Research paper by Claire de Mazancourt, Mark W. Schwartz

Indexed on: 16 Oct '10Published on: 16 Oct '10Published in: Theoretical Ecology


Organisms are often observed to acquire an excess of non-limiting resources, a process known as luxury consumption. Luxury consumption has been largely treated as a bet hedging strategy for temporal variation in resource supply, but may also function as a competitive strategy. We incorporate luxury resource consumption into a derivation of the classic resource ratio model for competition between terrestrial plant, and explore its consequences for population dynamics and competition. We show that luxury consumption reduces the potential for coexistence between two species competing for two resources. Furthermore, we demonstrate that luxury consumption can be selected for because of the competitive advantage that luxury consumers gain. Luxury consumption evolves when competition for resources is local rather than global, there is potential for coexistence between the two species and the competitive environment remains stable over a sufficient period of time to allow selection to act. The evolutionary outcome can be either extinction of one of the competing species or coexistence of the two species with maximum luxury consumption. The potential for selection to favor luxury consumption is well predicted by the competitive outcome between individuals of the two species with and without luxury consumption.