Chaotic population dynamics can result from natural selection

R. Ferriere, M. Gatto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


The question of whether animal populations display chaotic dynamics has motivated a thriving body of research for two decades. Yet unambiguous evidence for chaos in the wild remains scarce. Accordingly, it has been proposed that evolutionary forces act to preserve populations from chaos as well as oscillations. We have tested for this hypothesis by considering the dynamics associated with evolutionarily stable life histories (including age of maturity, adult survivorship and recruitment to adulthood) in a simple, but general, demographic model. Contrary to expectation, individual selection operating on demographic traits should often lead to oscillatory or chaotic dynamics for species with late feasible ages of maturity and many age classes. Also, the optimality of chaos is more likely whenever trade-offs constrain recruitment to rapidly decrease with increasing adult survival or decreasing age of maturity. Our results bring evolutionary support to the possibility that chaotic population dynamics might be much more widespread than inferred until now from data analyses. Furthermore, these findings provide novel support for the view that chaos could be an optimal regime for several biological systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-38
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1330
StatePublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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