Rapid evolution of life-history traits in response to warming, predation and competition: A meta-analysis

Tess Nahanni Grainger, Jonathan M. Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Although studies quantifying evolutionary change in response to the selective pressures that organisms face in the wild have demonstrated that organisms can evolve rapidly, we lack a systematic assessment of the frequency, magnitude and direction of rapid evolutionary change across taxa. To address this gap, we conducted a meta-analysis of 58 studies that document the effects of warming, predation or competition on the evolution of body size, development rate or fecundity in natural or experimental animal populations. We tested whether there was a consistent effect of any selective agent on any trait, whether the direction of these effects align with theoretical predictions, and whether the three agents select in opposing directions on any trait. Overall, we found weak effects of all three selective agents on trait evolution: none of our nine traits by selective agent combinations had an overall effect that differed from zero, only 31% of studies had a significant within-study effect, and attributes of the included studies generally did not account for between-study variation in results. One notable exception was that predation targeting adults consistently resulted in the evolution of smaller prey body size. We discuss potential causes of these generally weak responses and consider how our results inform the ongoing development of eco-evolutionary research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-554
Number of pages14
JournalEcology letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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