Competitive history shapes rapid evolution in a seasonal climate

Tess Nahanni Grainger, Seth M. Rudman, Paul Schmidt, Jonathan M. Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Eco-evolutionary dynamics will play a critical role in determining species' fates as climatic conditions change. Unfortunately, we have little understanding of how rapid evolutionary responses to climate play out when species are embedded in the competitive communities that they inhabit in nature. We tested the effects of rapid evolution in response to interspecific competition on subsequent ecological and evolutionary trajectories in a seasonally changing climate using a field-based evolution experiment with Drosophila melanogaster. Populations of D. melanogaster were either exposed, or not exposed, to interspecific competition with an invasive competitor, Zaprionus indianus, over the summer. We then quantified these populations' ecological trajectories (abundances) and evolutionary trajectories (heritable phenotypic change) when exposed to a cooling fall climate. We found that competition with Z. indianus in the summer affected the subsequent evolutionary trajectory of D. melanogaster populations in the fall, after all interspecific competition had ceased. Specifically, flies with a history of interspecific competition evolved under fall conditions to be larger and have lower cold fecundity and faster development than flies without a history of interspecific competition. Surprisingly, this divergent fall evolutionary trajectory occurred in the absence of any detectible effect of the summer competitive environment on phenotypic evolution over the summer or population dynamics in the fall. This study demonstrates that competitive interactions can leave a legacy that shapes evolutionary responses to climate even after competition has ceased, and more broadly, that evolution in response to one selective pressure can fundamentally alter evolution in response to subsequent agents of selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2015772118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 9 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Adaptation
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Interspecific competition
  • Invasive species
  • Seasonal evolution


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