Papers in the Biological Sciences



Kyle E. Coblentz ORCID ID: 0000-0002-0069-8491

John P. DeLong ORCID ID: 0000-0003-0558-8213

Date of this Version



bioRxiv preprint doi:; this version posted November 24, 2022.


CC-BY 4.0


Evolutionary dynamics are subject to constraints ranging from limitations on what is physically possible to limitations on the pathways that evolution can take. One set of evolutionary constraints, known as ‘demographic constraints’, constrain what can occur evolutionarily due to the population demographic or population dynamical consequences of evolution leading to conditions that make populations susceptible to extinction. These demographic constraints can limit the strength of selection or rates of environmental change populations can experience while remaining extant and the trait values a population can express. Here we further hypothesize that the population demographic and population dynamical consequences of evolution also can constrain the eco-evolutionary pathways that populations can traverse by defining ecological boundaries represented by areas of likely extinction. We illustrate this process using a model of predator evolution. Our results show that the populations that persist over time tend to be those whose eco-evolutionary dynamics have avoided ecological boundaries representing areas of likely extinction due to stochastic deviations from a deterministic eco-evolutionary expectation. We term this subset of persisting pathways viable eco-evolutionary pathways. The potential existence of ecological boundaries constraining evolutionary pathways has important implications for predicting evolutionary dynamics, interpreting past evolution, and understanding the role of stochasticity and ecological constraints on eco-evolutionary dynamics.

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