Red Queen coevolution in multispecies communities: Long-termevolutionary consequences of biotic and abiotic interactions

About the project

While both biotic factors, such as competition, and abiotic factors, such as changing climate, are usually acknowledged to contribute to evolutionary change and biotic turnover, their relative contributions remain unknown. In 1973, Leigh Van Valen published his Red Queen hypothesis, suggesting that in a multispecies system without any abiotic perturbations, evolution would still continue. He hypothesized that biotic interactions between species alone suffice to force biological systems into a never-settling evolutionary race. Although almost 40 years have passed, empirical validation of Van Valen’s hypothesis is still pending and the importance of biotic interactions for long-term evolutionary dynamics remains unclear.To bridge this gap in our knowledge, I propose a novel two-pronged approach. Together with my team I will apply novel analyses of palaeontological data that explicitly account for preservation and sampling processes and that simultaneously examine both biotic and abiotic factors in evolutionary turnover. Concurrently, we will develop a collection of novel mechanistic mathematical models that integrate ecology that are shaped towards specific systems for which we have long-term data. Empirical results from our statistical modelling of palaeontological data will be used to inform our collection of models. The mathematical models we will develop will explicitly account for organisms' interactions with both one another and the environment. They will allow us to disentangle the effects of possible drivers of Red Queen dynamics one by one. As results accumulate, the analyses of empirical data and mathematical modelling will benefit from each other in an iterative process of mutual feedback. The proposed research will result in fresh understanding of the contribution of biotic interactions and abiotic influences on the long-term evolution of lineages.





This project is funded by The Research Council of Norway.



10.01.2013 - 09.01.2017

Published May 3, 2013 02:10 PM - Last modified May 8, 2013 05:03 PM