Character displacement in the presence of multiple trait differences: Evolution of the storage effect in germination and growth

Nicholas Kortessis, Peter Chesson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Ecological character displacement is a prominent hypothesis for the maintenance of ecological differences between species that are critical to stable coexistence. Models of character displacement often ascribe interspecific competitive interactions to a single character, but multiple characters contribute to competition, and their effects on selection can be nonadditive. Focusing on one character, we ask if other characters that affect competition alter evolutionary outcomes for the focal character. We address this question using the variable environment seed bank model for two species with two traits. The focal trait is the temporal pattern of germination, which is evolutionary labile. The other trait is the temporal pattern of plant growth, which is assumed fixed. We ask whether evolutionary divergence of germination patterns between species depends on species differences in plant growth. Patterns of growth can affect selection on germination patterns in two ways. First, cues present at germination can provide information about future growth. Second, germination and growth jointly determine the biomass of plants, which determines demand for resources. Germination and growth contribute to the selection gradient in distinct components, one density-independent and the other density-dependent. Importantly, the relative strengths of the components are key. When the density-dependent component is stronger, displacement in germination patterns between species is larger. Stronger cues at germination strengthen the density-independent component by increasing the benefits of germinating in years of favorable growth. But cues also affect the density-dependent component by boosting a species’ biomass, and hence its competitive effect, in good years. Consequently, cues weaken character displacement when growth patterns are similar for two competitors, but favor displacement when growth patterns are species-specific. Understanding how these selection components change between contexts can help understand the origin and maintenance of species differences in germination patterns in temporally fluctuating environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-66
Number of pages13
JournalTheoretical Population Biology
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Adaptive dynamics
  • Coexistence
  • Competition
  • Divergent evolution
  • Predictive germination
  • Variable environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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