Report

Evolution of Character Displacement in Darwin's Finches

Science  14 Jul 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5784, pp. 224-226
DOI: 10.1126/science.1128374

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Abstract

Competitor species can have evolutionary effects on each other that result in ecological character displacement; that is, divergence in resource-exploiting traits such as jaws and beaks. Nevertheless, the process of character displacement occurring in nature, from the initial encounter of competitors to the evolutionary change in one or more of them, has not previously been investigated. Here we report that a Darwin's finch species (Geospiza fortis) on an undisturbed Galápagos island diverged in beak size from a competitor species (G. magnirostris) 22 years after the competitor's arrival, when they jointly and severely depleted the food supply. The observed evolutionary response to natural selection was the strongest recorded in 33 years of study, and close to the value predicted from the high heritability of beak size. These findings support the role of competition in models of community assembly, speciation, and adaptive radiations.

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