Integration of Ecology and Evolution

Colloquium 4. Main activity: Year 2013-2016


Even though it has been acknowledged that linking ecological and evolutionary time-scales and processes can often lead to new insights, the theoretical and analytical frameworks of ecology and evolutionary biology are currently largely incompatible.

On one hand, ecologists typically perceive the genetic constituents of the species as constant, facing the dual problem of not taking into account that evolutionary changes of ecological importance may occur over very short time spans, and of ignoring the evolutionary history of the species. On the other hand, evolutionary biologists tend to disregard ecological interactions and typically assume extensive time periods with constant parameters (i.e., selection coefficients, effective population size).Traditional evolutionary genetics and the statistical tools for analysing genetic data are not geared towards solving problems involving dynamically interacting species and populations but, rather, are limited to static entities, such as spatially fixed populations and constant and independent parameters.

The Red Queen Hypothesis states that biotic interactions suffice to drive evolution in the absence of environmental perturbation.

Although the Red Queen Hypothesis is in line with Darwin’s writings, it has generated a lot of controversy among paleontologists and biologists. The Red Queen hypothesis has been notoriously difficult to test and remains interesting despite decades of debate and research. The paths of paleontologists with access to the fossil record, experimentalists who can manipulate organisms with very short generation times, and theoretical biologists with mathematical expertise seldom converge. But their confluence is exactly what we need for a deeper understanding of the evolutionary dynamics of longterm multi-species communities.

Summary of focus

The overall aim of this Colloquium (Coll. 4) is the integration of ecology and evolution.

Technically speaking, we will incorporate ecological dynamics into the population genetic models (typically assumed to be in equilibrium or in stationary growth), and genetic variance into the ecological models (typically ignoring genetic variance among the individuals constituting the population). In short, uniting the time-scales of evolutionary biology, population ecology and behavioural ecology, we will summarize, expand on, and assess the significance of concepts and tools that have emerged during the CoE period.

Associated Projects

Bringing together evolution and ecology - Bringing together evolution and ecology through the Red Queen Perspective


Paul Rainey - Professor, New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study, Massey University

Bjarte Hannisdal - Researcher, Centre for Geobiology, University of Bergen

Thomas Ezard - Research Fellow, University of Surrey


Published Nov. 27, 2012 10:45 AM - Last modified Mar. 17, 2016 03:54 PM