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Consideration of the possibilities and difficulties of detecting character displacement leads to a re-definition of the phenomenon; character displacement is the process by which a morphological character state of a species changes under Natural Selection arising from the presence, in the same environment, of one or more species similar to it ecologically and/or reproductively. This incorporates the principal ideas in the original definition given by Brown & Wilson (1956), but eliminates the restriction of making comparisons of the character states of a species in sympatry and allopatry.

The evidence for the ecological (competitive) aspect of character displacement is assessed by analyzing in detail the best documented and well publicized examples in the literature. Some of the examples either do not exhibit displaced characters or, if they do, the “displacement” can be interpreted in other and perhaps simpler ways; this applies to the so-called classical case of character displacement, Sitta tephronota and S. neumayer in Iran. Other examples, involving lizards and birds, constitute better evidence for character displacement, but in no single study is it entirely satisfactory. It is concluded that the evidence for the ecological aspect of character displacement is weak.