Eco-evolutionary dynamics in response to selection on life-history

Tom C. Cameron*, Daniel O'Sullivan, Alan Reynolds, Stuart B. Piertney, Tim G. Benton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the consequences of environmental change on ecological and evolutionary dynamics is inherently problematic because of the complex interplay between them. Using invertebrates in microcosms, we characterise phenotypic, population and evolutionary dynamics before, during and after exposure to a novel environment and harvesting over 20 generations. We demonstrate an evolved change in life-history traits (the age- and size-at-maturity, and survival to maturity) in response to selection caused by environmental change (wild to laboratory) and to harvesting (juvenile or adult). Life-history evolution, which drives changes in population growth rate and thus population dynamics, includes an increase in age-to-maturity of 76% (from 12.5 to 22days) in the unharvested populations as they adapt to the new environment. Evolutionary responses to harvesting are outweighed by the response to environmental change (similar to 1.4 vs. 4% change in age-at-maturity per generation). The adaptive response to environmental change converts a negative population growth trajectory into a positive one: an example of evolutionary rescue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)754-763
Number of pages10
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number6
Early online date8 Apr 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013

Bibliographical note

We thank Freda Marshall for coordination of AFLP genotyping. We thank L. Persson and A. de Roos for feedback on earlier drafts, Stewart Plaistow for data and discussion. This study was funded by NERC grant NE/C510467/1 (to TGB and SBP) and a University of Leeds Postdoctoral Fellowship (TCC). This study met the ethical requirements of the University of Leeds, UK.


  • Consumer resource
  • eco-evolution
  • environmental change
  • evolutionary rescue
  • harvesting induced evolution
  • life-history
  • phenotypic evolution


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