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Keywords:

  • Eco-evolutionary dynamics;
  • host–parasite interaction;
  • population cycles;
  • predator–prey interaction;
  • rapid evolution;
  • retrospective analysis

Abstract

Consumer–resource interactions are fundamental components of ecological communities. Classic features of consumer–resource models are that temporal dynamics are often cyclic, with a ¼-period lag between resource and consumer population peaks. However, there are few published empirical examples of this pattern. Here, we show that many published examples of consumer–resource cycling show instead patterns indicating eco-evolutionary dynamics. When prey evolve along a trade-off between defence and competitive ability, two-species consumer–resource cycles become longer and antiphase (half-period lag, so consumer maxima coincide with minima of the resource species). Using stringent criteria, we identified 21 two-species consumer–resource time series, published between 1934 and 1997, suitable to investigate for eco-evolutionary dynamics. We developed a statistical method to probe for a transition from classic to eco-evolutionary cycles, and find evidence for eco-evolutionary type cycles in about half of the studies. We show that rapid prey evolution is the most likely explanation for the observed patterns.