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Keywords:

  • community ecology;
  • community genetics;
  • diffuse coevolution;
  • diffuse evolution;
  • diffuse selection;
  • plant–herbivore interactions

Summary

  • • 
    How species evolve depends on the communities in which they are embedded. Here, we briefly review the ideas underlying concepts of diffuse coevolution, evolution, and selection.
  • • 
    We discuss criteria to identify when evolution will be diffuse. We advocate a more explicitly trait-oriented approach to diffuse (co)evolution, and discuss how considering effects of interacting species on fitness alone tells us little about evolution. We endorse the view that diffuse evolution occurs whenever the response to selection by one interacting species on a given trait is altered by the presence of a second interacting species.
  • • 
    Building on the work of others, we clarify and expand the criteria for diffuse evolution and present a simple experimental design that will allow the detection of diffuse selection.
  • • 
    We argue that a greater focus on selection on specific traits and the evolutionary response to that selection will improve our conceptual understanding of how communities affect the evolution of species embedded within them.