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Alternative Designs and the Evolution of Functional Diversity

Christian O. Marks and Martin J. Lechowicz
The American Naturalist
Vol. 167, No. 1 (January 2006), pp. 55-66
DOI: 10.1086/498276
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/498276
Page Count: 12
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Alternative Designs and the Evolution of Functional Diversity
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Abstract

Abstract: According to conventional wisdom, functional diversity is exclusively a consequence of species having evolved adaptations to fill different niches within a heterogeneous environment. This view anticipates only one optimal combination of trait values in a given environment, but it is also conceivable that alternative designs of equal fitness in the same environment might evolve. To investigate that possibility, we use a genetic algorithm to search for optimal combinations of 34 functional traits in a realistic model of tree seedling growth and survival. We show that separate lineages of seedlings evolving in identical environments result in many alternative functional designs of approximately equal fitness.

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