Repeated patterns among biological communities suggest similar evolutionary and ecological forces are acting on the communities. Conversely, the lack of such patterns suggests that similar forces are absent or additional ones are present. Coevolution between a seed predator, the red crossbill (Loxia curvirostra complex), and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) exemplifies the ecological and evolutionary predictions for coevolving systems. In the absence of another seed predator and preemptive competitor (pine squirrels Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), natural selection by crossbills results in the evolution of larger cones with thicker distal scales, while relaxation of selection by squirrels results in the evolution of cones with more seeds and a greater ratio of seed mass to cone mass. However, in one range, the Little Rocky Mountains, distal scale thickness has diverged as expected but cone size has not. In these mountains seed predation by lodgepole pine cone borer moths (Eucosma recissoriana) was about 10 times greater than in other ranges lacking squirrels. We quantified moth predation and cone traits and found that moths select for smaller cones with fewer seeds. Thus, selection by moths in the Little Rocky Mountains counters both selection by crossbills for large cone size and relaxation of selection by squirrels favoring more seeds per cone and accounts for the relatively small and few-seeded cones in these mountains. It is also apparent that selection by crossbills changes seed defenses in a manner that favors seed predation by moths, whereas selection by squirrels likely reduces such predation. These results demonstrate the importance of considering the evolutionary consequences of community context in locally evolved (coevolved) traits and interactions.
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Vol. 58 • No. 1