It’s about time: the temporal dynamics of phenotypic selection in the wild




Selection is a central process in nature. Although our understanding of the strength and form of selection has increased, a general understanding of the temporal dynamics of selection in nature is lacking. Here, we assembled a database of temporal replicates of selection from studies of wild populations to synthesize what we do (and do not) know about the temporal dynamics of selection. Our database contains 5519 estimates of selection from 89 studies, including estimates of both direct and indirect selection as well as linear and nonlinear selection. Morphological traits and studies focused on vertebrates were well-represented, with other traits and taxonomic groups less well-represented. Overall, three major features characterize the temporal dynamics of selection. First, the strength of selection often varies considerably from year to year, although random sampling error of selection coefficients may impose bias in estimates of the magnitude of such variation. Second, changes in the direction of selection are frequent. Third, changes in the form of selection are likely common, but harder to quantify. Although few studies have identified causal mechanisms underlying temporal variation in the strength, direction and form of selection, variation in environmental conditions driven by climatic fluctuations appear to be common and important.