Theory suggests that frequency-dependent resource competition will disproportionately impact the most common phenotypes in a population. The resulting disruptive selection forms the driving force behind evolutionary models of niche diversification, character release, ecological sexual dimorphism, resource polymorphism, and sympatric speciation. However, there is little empirical support for the idea that intraspecific competition generates disruptive selection. This paper presents a test of this theory, using natural populations of the three-spine stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus. Sticklebacks exhibit substantial individual specialization associated with phenotypic variation and so are likely to experience frequency-dependent competition and hence disruptive selection. Using body size and relative gonad mass as indirect measures of potential fecundity and hence fitness, I show that an important aspect of trophic morphology, gill raker length, is subject to disruptive selection in one of two natural lake populations. To test whether this apparent disruptive selection could have been caused by competition, I manipulated population densities in pairs of large enclosures in each of five lakes. In each lake I removed fish from one enclosure and added them to the other to create paired low- and high-population-density treatments with natural phenotype distributions. Again using indirect measures of fitness, disruptive selection was consistently stronger in high-density than low-density enclosures. These results support long-standing theoretical arguments that intraspecific competition drives disruptive selection and thus may be an important causal agent in the evolution of ecological variation.
You have requested a machine translation of selected content from our databases. This functionality is provided solely for your convenience and is in no way intended to replace human translation. Neither BioOne nor the owners and publishers of the content make, and they explicitly disclaim, any express or implied representations or warranties of any kind, including, without limitation, representations and warranties as to the functionality of the translation feature or the accuracy or completeness of the translations.
Translations are not retained in our system. Your use of this feature and the translations is subject to all use restrictions contained in the Terms and Conditions of Use of the BioOne website.
Vol. 58 • No. 3