Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 1084–1092
Rapid evolution challenges the assumption that evolution is too slow to impact short-term ecological dynamics. This insight motivates the study of ‘Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics’ or how evolution and ecological processes reciprocally interact on short time scales. We tested how rapid evolution impacts concurrent population dynamics using an aphid (Myzus persicae) and an undomesticated host (Hirschfeldia incana) in replicated wild populations. We manipulated evolvability by creating non-evolving (single clone) and potentially evolving (two-clone) aphid populations that contained genetic variation in intrinsic growth rate. We observed significant evolution in two-clone populations whether or not they were exposed to predators and competitors. Evolving populations grew up to 42% faster and attained up to 67% higher density, compared with non-evolving control populations but only in treatments exposed to competitors and predators. Increased density also correlates with relative fitness of competing clones suggesting a full eco-evolutionary dynamic cycle defined as reciprocal interactions between evolution and density.