A role for habitat area in the geographic mosaic of coevolution between red crossbills and lodgepole pine


  • Present address: A. M. Siepielski, Department of Zoology and Physiology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071-3166, USA.

C. W. Benkman, Department of Zoology and Physiology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071-3166, USA.
Tel.: +1 307-766-2978; fax: +1 307-766-5625;
e-mail: cbenkman@uwyo.edu


Understanding how resource abundance limits adaptive evolution and influences species interactions is an important step towards developing insight into the role of microevolutionary processes in establishing macroevolutionary patterns. We examined how variation in resource abundance (forest area of lodgepole pine Pinus contorta ssp. latifolia) influenced patterns of co-adaptation and coevolution between red crossbill (Loxia curvirostra complex) and lodgepole pine populations. First, we found that crossbill abundance increased logarithmically as forest area increased in mountain ranges lacking a preemptive competitor (pine squirrels Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). Second, seed defences against predation by crossbills increased with increases in crossbill density, suggesting that seed defences have likely evolved in proportion to the intensity of selection that crossbills exert. Third, the average bill size of crossbill populations increased with increasing seed defences, which implies that crossbill offenses increased with increases in seed defences. The large bill size on the largest range is the result of coevolution with lodgepole pine with this crossbill population perhaps speciating. Local adaptation of crossbill populations on smaller ranges, however, is more likely the result of resident crossbills representing a subset of the potential colonists (phenotypic sorting) than of local evolution. In the smallest range, migration and possibly more frequent extinction likely impede local adaptation and may result in maladaptation.