Direct and Indirect ecosystem effects of evolutionary adaptation in the trinidadian guppy (Poecilia reticulata)

Ronald D. Bassar, Regis Ferriere, Andrés López-Sepulcre, Michael C. Marshall, Joseph Travis, Catherine M. Pringle, David N. Reznick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Ecological and evolutionary processes may interact on the same timescale, but we are just beginning to understand how. Several studies have examined the net effects of adaptive evolution on ecosystem properties. However, we do not know whether these effects are confined to direct interactions or whether they propagate further through indirect ecological pathways. Even less well understood is how the combination of direct and indirect ecological effects of the phenotype promotes or inhibits evolutionary change.We coupled mesocosm experiments and ecosystem modeling to evaluate the ecological effects of local adaptation in Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata). The experiments show that guppies adapted to life with and without predators alter the ecosystem directly through differences in diet. The ecosystem model reveals that the small total indirect effect of the phenotype observed in the experiments is likely a combination of several large indirect effects that act in opposing directions. The model further suggests that these indirect effects can reverse the direction of selection that direct effects alone exert back on phenotypic variation. We conclude that phenotypic divergence can have major effects deep in the web of indirect ecological interactions and that even small total indirect effects can radically change the dynamics of adaptation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-185
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Eco-evolutionary feedback
  • Evolution
  • Food webs
  • Indirect effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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