Papers in the Biological Sciences
John P. DeLong https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0558-8213
Clayton E. Cressler https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6281-2798
Date of this Version
Stochastic processes such as genetic drift may hinder adaptation, but the effect of such stochasticity on evolution via its effect on ecological dynamics is poorly understood. Here we evaluate patterns of adaptation in a population subject to variation in demographic stochasticity. We show that stochasticity can alter population dynamics and lead to evolutionary outcomes that are not predicted by classic eco-evolutionary modeling approaches. We also show, however, that these outcomes are governed by nonequilibrium evolutionary attractors— these are maxima in lifetime reproductive success when stochasticity keeps the ecological system away from the deterministic equilibrium. These NEEAs alter the path of evolution but are not visible through the equilibrium lens that underlies much evolutionary theory. Our results reveal that considering population processes during transient periods can greatly improve our understanding of the path and pace of evolution.
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