Life-history evolution under fluctuating density-dependent selection and the adaptive alignment of pace-of-life syndromes
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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We present a novel perspective on life-history evolution that combines recent theoretical advances in fluctuating density-dependent selection with the notion of pace-of-life syndromes (POLSs) in behavioural ecology. These ideas posit phenotypic co-variation in life-history, physiological, morphological and behavioural traits as a continuum from the highly fecund, short-lived, bold, aggressive and highly dispersive ‘fast’ types at one end of the POLS to the less fecund, long-lived, cautious, shy, plastic and socially responsive ‘slow’ types at the other. We propose that such variation in life histories and the associated individual differences in behaviour can be explained through their eco-evolutionary dynamics with population density – a single and ubiquitous selective factor that is present in all biological systems. Contrasting regimes of environmental stochasticity are expected to affect population density in time and space and create differing patterns of fluctuating density-dependent selection, which generates variation in fast versus slow life histories within and among populations. We therefore predict that amajor axis of phenotypic co-variation in life-history, physiological, morphological and behavioural traits (i.e. the POLS) should align with these stochastic fluctuations in the multivariate fitness landscape created by variation in density-dependent selection. Phenotypic plasticity and/or genetic (co-)variation oriented along this major POLS axis are thus expected to facilitate rapid and adaptively integrated changes in various aspects of life histories within and among populations and/or species. The fluctuating density-dependent selection POLS framework presented here therefore provides a series of clear testable predictions, the investigation of which should further our fundamental understanding of life-history evolution and thus our ability to predict natural population dynamics.