The King Laboratory
of Theoretical Ecology & Evolution
at the University of Michigan

Unexpected nongenetic individual heterogeneity and trait covariance in Daphnia and its consequences for ecological and evolutionary dynamics

C. E. Cressler, S. Bengtson, and W. A. Nelson
American Naturalist 190(1): E13–E27, 2017.

Individual differences in genetics, age, or environment can cause tremendous differences in individual life-history traits. This individual heterogeneity generates demographic heterogeneity at the population level, which is predicted to have a strong impact on both ecological and evolutionary dynamics. However, we know surprisingly little about the sources of individual heterogeneity for particular taxa or how different sources scale up to impact ecological and evolutionary dynamics. Here we experimentally study the individual heterogeneity that emerges from both genetic and nongenetic sources in a species of freshwater zooplankton across a large gradient of food quality. Despite the tight control of environment, we still find that the variation from nongenetic sources is greater than that from genetic sources over a wide range of food quality and that this variation has strong positive covariance between growth and reproduction. We evaluate the general consequences of genetic and nongenetic covariance for ecological and evolutionary dynamics theoretically and find that increasing nongenetic variation slows evolution independent of the correlation in heritable life-history traits but that the impact on ecological dynamics depends on both nongenetic and genetic covariance. Our results demonstrate that variation in the relative magnitude of nongenetic versus genetic sources of variation impacts the predicted ecological and evolutionary dynamics.

The official version of the paper is here.  

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