Article: article from journal or magazin.
Mutational collapse of fitness in marginal habitats and the evolution of ecological specialisation
Journal of Evolutionary Biology
In spatially heterogeneous environments, natural selection for maintenance of adaptation to habitats that contribute little to the population's reproduction is weak. In this paper we model a mechanism that can result in loss of fitness in such marginal habitats, and thus lead to specialisation on the main habitat. It involves accumulation of mutations that are deleterious in the marginal habitat but neutral or nearly so in the main habitat (mutations deleterious in the main habitat and neutral in the marginal habitat have a negligible influence). If the contribution of the marginal habitat to total reproduction in the absence of the mutations is less than a threshold value, selection is too weak to counter accumulation of such mutations. A positive feedback then results in loss of fitness in the marginal habitat. This mechanism does not require antagonistic pleiotropy in adaptation to different habitats, although antagonistic pleiotropy facilitates the mutational collapse of fitness in the marginal habitat. We suggest that deleterious mutations with habitat-specific expression may play a role in the evolution of ecological specialisation and promote evolutionary conservatism of ecological niches.
ecological niche, fitness, heterogeneous environment, mutation load, specialisation
Web of science
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