E. Nonaka, K. Parvinen and Å. Brännström (2013)
Evolutionary suicide as a consequence of runaway selection for greater aggregation tendency
Journal of Theoretical Biology 317, 96-104
Available online


Aggregation of individuals is a common phenomenon in nature. By aggregating, individuals can reap benefits but may also be subject to associated costs from increased competition. The benefits of aggregation can depend on population density, which in turn can be affected by aggregation when it determines reproductive success of individuals. The Allee effect is often considered to be one of the factors that can explain the evolution of aggregation behavior. We investigated this hypothesis with a mathematical model which integrates population dynamics and evolution. Individuals gain synergistically from aggregation but suffer from scramble competition with aggregation tendency as an evolving trait. We found that aggregation behavior can stabilize the population dynamics and reduce population growth. The results show that the Allee effect alone is not sufficient for aggregative behavior to evolve as an evolutionarily stable strategy. We also found that weak local competition does not promote aggregation due to feedback from the population level: under low competition, the population can achieve high density such that aggregation becomes costly rather than beneficial. Our model instead exhibits an escalation of aggregation tendency, leading to the extinction of the population in a process known as evolutionary suicide. We conclude that for aggregation to evolve as an evolutionarily stable strategy we need to consider other factors such as inter-patch dispersal to new patches and avoidance of excessively large groups.

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