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Evolution and coevolution in mutualistic networks

Authors

  • Paulo R. Guimarães Jr,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA
    2. Departamento de Ecologia, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo 05508-900, SP, Brazil
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  • Pedro Jordano,

    1. Integrative Ecology Group, Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC, Av. Americo Vespucio S/N, Isla de la Cartuja, E-41092 Sevilla, Spain
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  • John N. Thompson

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA
      E-mail: jnthomp@ucsc.edu
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E-mail: jnthomp@ucsc.edu

Abstract

Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 877–885

Abstract

A major current challenge in evolutionary biology is to understand how networks of interacting species shape the coevolutionary process. We combined a model for trait evolution with data for twenty plant-animal assemblages to explore coevolution in mutualistic networks. The results revealed three fundamental aspects of coevolution in species-rich mutualisms. First, coevolution shapes species traits throughout mutualistic networks by speeding up the overall rate of evolution. Second, coevolution results in higher trait complementarity in interacting partners and trait convergence in species in the same trophic level. Third, convergence is higher in the presence of super-generalists, which are species that interact with multiple groups of species. We predict that worldwide shifts in the occurrence of super-generalists will alter how coevolution shapes webs of interacting species. Introduced species such as honeybees will favour trait convergence in invaded communities, whereas the loss of large frugivores will lead to increased trait dissimilarity in tropical ecosystems.

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