We study the combined evolutionary dynamics of herbivore specialization and ecological character displacement, taking into account foraging behavior of the herbivores, and a quality gradient of plant types. Herbivores can adapt by changing two adaptive traits: their level of specialization in feeding efficiency and their point of maximum feeding efficiency along the plant gradient. The number of herbivore phenotypes, their levels of specialization, and the amount of character displacement among them are the result of the evolutionary dynamics, which is driven by the underlying population dynamics, which in turn is driven by the underlying foraging behavior. Our analysis demonstrates broad conditions for the diversification of a herbivore population into many specialized phenotypes, for basically any foraging behavior focusing use on highest gains while also including errors. Our model predicts two characteristic phases in the adaptation of herbivore phenotypes: a fast character-displacement phase and a slow coevolutionary niche-shift phase. This two-phase pattern is expected to be of wide relevance in various consumer-resource systems. Bringing together ecological character displacement and the evolution of specialization in a single model, our study suggests that the foraging behavior of herbivorous arthropods is a key factor promoting specialist radiation.
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Vol. 59 • No. 3