Can adaptation lead to extinction?

Authors

  • Daniel J. Rankin,

    1. Laboratory of Ecological and Evolutionary Dynamics, Dept of Biological and Environmental Science, Univ. of Helsinki, P.O. Box 65 (Viikinkaari 1), FIN–00014 Helsinki, Finland (daniel.rankin@helsinki.fi) ALS also at: Dept of Biological and Environmental Science, Univ. of Jyväskylä, Finland.
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  • Andrés López-Sepulcre

    1. Laboratory of Ecological and Evolutionary Dynamics, Dept of Biological and Environmental Science, Univ. of Helsinki, P.O. Box 65 (Viikinkaari 1), FIN–00014 Helsinki, Finland (daniel.rankin@helsinki.fi) ALS also at: Dept of Biological and Environmental Science, Univ. of Jyväskylä, Finland.
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Abstract

Ever since J.B.S. Haldane proposed the idea, evolutionary biologists are aware that individual level adaptations do not necessarily lead to optimal population performance. A few deeply mathematical models, drawing from a diverse range of systems, even predict that individual selection can lead to the extinction of the whole population, a phenomenon which has become known as evolutionary suicide. Due to the complexity of both following adaptation and determining the exact cause of an extinction, evolutionary suicide has remained untested empirically. However, three recent empirical studies suggest that it may occur, and that suicide should be taken seriously as a potentially important evolutionary phenomenon. Here we ask whether or not evolutionary suicide can occur, briefly reviewing the theoretical and empirical evidence. We further highlight systems which may be used to test whether or not individual level selection can cause extinction.

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