Many animal groups exhibit rapid, coordinated collective motion. Yet, the evolutionary forces that cause such collective responses to evolve are poorly understood. Here we develop analytical methods and evolutionary simulations based on experimental data from schooling fish. We use these methods to investigate how populations evolve within unpredictable, time-varying resource environments. We show that populations evolve toward a distinctive regime in behavioral phenotype space, where small responses of individuals to local environmental cues cause spontaneous changes in the collective state of groups. These changes resemble phase transitions in physical systems. Through these transitions, individuals evolve the emergent capacity to sense and respond to resource gradients (i.e. individuals perceive gradients via social interactions, rather than sensing gradients directly), and to allocate themselves among distinct, distant resource patches. Our results yield new insight into how natural selection, acting on selfish individuals, results in the highly effective collective responses evident in nature.
- Michael Doebeli, University of British Columbia, Canada
© 2015, Hein et al.
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Many animals rely on complex signals that target multiple senses to attract mates and repel rivals. These multimodal displays can however also attract unintended receivers, which can be an important driver of signal complexity. Despite being taxonomically widespread, we often lack insight into how multimodal signals evolve from unimodal signals and in particular what roles unintended eavesdroppers play. Here, we assess whether the physical movements of parasite defense behavior increase the complexity and attractiveness of an acoustic sexual signal in the little torrent frog (Amolops torrentis). Calling males of this species often display limb movements in order to defend against blood-sucking parasites such as frog-biting midges that eavesdrop on their acoustic signal. Through mate choice tests we show that some of these midge-evoked movements influence female preference for acoustic signals. Our data suggest that midge-induced movements may be incorporated into a sexual display, targeting both hearing and vision in the intended receiver. Females may play an important role in incorporating these multiple components because they prefer signals which combine multiple modalities. Our results thus help to understand the relationship between natural and sexual selection pressure operating on signalers and how in turn this may influence multimodal signal evolution.
Global change has dramatic impacts on grassland diversity. However, little is known about how fast species can adapt to diversity loss and how this affects their responses to global change. Here, we performed a common garden experiment testing whether plant responses to global change are influenced by their selection history and the conditioning history of soil at different plant diversity levels. Using seeds of four grass species and soil samples from a 14-year-old biodiversity experiment, we grew the offspring of the plants either in their own soil or in soil of a different community, and exposed them either to drought, increased nitrogen input, or a combination of both. Under nitrogen addition, offspring of plants selected at high diversity produced more biomass than those selected at low diversity, while drought neutralized differences in biomass production. Moreover, under the influence of global change drivers, soil history, and to a lesser extent plant history, had species-specific effects on trait expression. Our results show that plant diversity modulates plant-soil interactions and growth strategies of plants, which in turn affects plant eco-evolutionary pathways. How this change affects species' response to global change and whether this can cause a feedback loop should be investigated in more detail in future studies.