Novel prey life history promotes sympatric diversification in a top predator

This week we will discuss a paper on how a novel prey life history leads to sympatric divergence in a predator species that was recently published in Nature Communications by Brodersen and colleagues. This will bring some ecology back to the journal club after some more molecular papers!

Novel life history strategy in this alewife has  driven divergence in a predator species.

Emergence of a novel prey life history promotes contemporary sympatric diversification in a top predator



Intraspecific phenotypic variation can strongly impact community and ecosystem dynamics. Effects of intraspecific variation in keystone species have been shown to propagate down through the food web by altering the adaptive landscape for other species and creating a cascade of ecological and evolutionary change. However, similar bottom-up eco-evolutionary effects are poorly described. Here we show that life history diversification in a keystone prey species, the alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus), propagates up through the food web to promote phenotypic diversification in its native top predator, the chain pickerel (Esox niger), on contemporary timescales. The landlocking of alewife by human dam construction has repeatedly created a stable open water prey resource, novel to coastal lakes, that has promoted the parallel emergence of a habitat polymorphism in chain pickerel. Understanding how strong interactions propagate through food webs to influence diversification across multiple trophic levels is critical to understand eco-evolutionary interactions in complex natural ecosystems.
Published Nov. 9, 2015 5:35 PM