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Character Displacement and the Origins of Diversity

David W. Pfennig and Karin S. Pfennig
The American Naturalist
Vol. 176, No. S1, Darwinian Thinking: 150 Years after The Origin A Symposium Organized by Douglas W. Schemske (December 2010), pp. S26-S44
DOI: 10.1086/657056
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/657056
Page Count: 19
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Character Displacement and the Origins of Diversity
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Abstract

Abstract: In The Origin of Species, Darwin proposed his principle of divergence of character (a process now termed “character displacement”) to explain how new species arise and why they differ from each other phenotypically. Darwin maintained that the origin of species and the evolution of differences between them is ultimately caused by divergent selection acting to minimize competitive interactions between initially similar individuals, populations, and species. Here, we examine the empirical support for the various claims that constitute Darwin’s principle, specifically that (1) competition promotes divergent trait evolution, (2) the strength of competitively mediated divergent selection increases with increasing phenotypic similarity between competitors, (3) divergence can occur within species, and (4) competitively mediated divergence can trigger speciation. We also explore aspects that Darwin failed to consider. In particular, we describe how (1) divergence can arise from selection acting to lessen reproductive interactions, (2) divergence is fueled by the intersection of character displacement and sexual selection, and (3) phenotypic plasticity may play a key role in promoting character displacement. Generally, character displacement is well supported empirically, and it remains a vital explanation for how new species arise and diversify.

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