Competitive outcomes changed by evolution

R. C. Rael, T. L. Vincent, J. M. Cushing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


When evolution plays a role, population dynamic models alone are not sufficient for determining the outcome of multi-species interactions.As an expansion of Maynard Smith's concept of an evolutionarily stable strategy, evolutionary game theory (EGT) combines population and evolutionary dynamics so that natural selection becomes a dynamic game with phenotypic traits as strategies. Using EGT,we showhowevolution can change the outcome of the interaction between two competing species.We are particularly interested in situations where the interaction changes from one of competitive exclusion to one of coexistence and where the interaction changes from the exclusion of one species to the exclusion of the other. There are two crucial factors that determine whether or not such events can occur: the rate of evolution (which is proportional to the amount of variability in phenotypic traits within a species) and what we term the boxer effect, a phenomenon that concerns how the intensity of interspecies competition relates to species' trait differences. We apply the theory to data from two historical competition experiments involving species of flour beetle from the genus Tribolium. In both applications, we show how EGT can explain certain seemingly 'anomalous' experimental results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-252
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of biological dynamics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011


  • Competition
  • Competitive coexistence
  • Competitive exclusion
  • Evolutionarily stable strategy
  • Evolutionary game theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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