Predicting trait values and measuring selection in complex life histories: reproductive allocation decisions in Soay sheep




Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 985–992


Accurate prediction of life history phenomena and characterisation of selection in free-living animal populations are fundamental goals in evolutionary ecology. In density regulated, structured populations, where individual state influences fate, simple and widely used approaches based on individual lifetime measures of fitness are difficult to justify. We combine recently developed structured population modelling tools with ideas from modern evolutionary game theory (adaptive dynamics) to understand selection on allocation of female reproductive effort to singletons or twins in a size-structured population of feral sheep. In marked contrast to the classical selection analyses, our model-based approach predicts that the female allocation strategy is under negligible directional selection. These differences arise because classical selection analysis ignores components of offspring fitness and fails to consider selection over the complete life cycle.