Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Oikos 2023: e09893

doi: 10.1111/oik.09893


This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License,


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 demographic or dynamical consequences of evolution leading to conditions that make populations susceptible to extinction. These demographic constraints can limit the strength of selection or the 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 dynamic 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.

Included in

Biology Commons