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Fluctuating effects of genetic and plastic changes in body mass on population dynamics in a large herbivore

Fluctuating effects of genetic and plastic changes in body mass on population dynamics in a large herbivore
Fluctuating effects of genetic and plastic changes in body mass on population dynamics in a large herbivore
Recent studies suggest that evolutionary changes can occur on a contemporary time scale. Hence, evolution can influence ecology and vice-versa. To understand the importance of eco-evolutionary dynamics in population dynamics, we must quantify the relative contribution of ecological and evolutionary changes to population growth and other ecological processes. To date, however, most eco-evolutionary dynamics studies have not partitioned the relative contribution of plastic and evolutionary changes in traits on population, community, and ecosystem processes. Here, we quantify the effects of heritable and non-heritable changes in body mass distribution on survival, recruitment, and population growth in wild bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) and compare their importance to the effects of changes in age structure, population density, and weather. We applied a combination of a pedigree-based quantitative genetics model, statistical analyses of demography, and a new statistical decomposition technique, the Geber method, to a long-term data set of bighorn sheep on Ram Mountain (Canada), monitored individually from 1975 to 2012. We show three main results: (1) The relative importance of heritable change in mass, non-heritable change in mass, age structure, density, and climate on population growth rate changed substantially over time. (2) An increase in body mass was accompanied by an increase in population growth through higher survival and recruitment rate. (3) Over the entire study period, changes in the body mass distribution of ewes, mostly through non-heritable changes, affected population growth to a similar extent as changes in age structure or in density. The importance of evolutionary changes was small compared to that of other drivers of changes in population growth but increased with time as evolutionary changes accumulated. Evolutionary changes became increasingly important for population growth as the length of the study period considered increased. Our results highlight the complex ways in which ecological and evolutionary changes can affect population dynamics and illustrate the large potential effect of trait changes on population processes.
0012-9658
2456–2467
Pigeon, Gabriel
ebbdd5ea-3bb5-4cba-bea9-35e42ddf6118
Ezard, Thomas H.G.
a143a893-07d0-4673-a2dd-cea2cd7e1374
Festa-Bianchet, Marco
b4e152db-05d9-4d34-a7ce-6b811ec5ef30
Coltman, David W.
0a087f35-1d52-4b75-b8b0-ca74da7e1c30
Pelletier, Fanie
4c48ece9-912b-4ce4-a5dd-a5269905500b
Pigeon, Gabriel
ebbdd5ea-3bb5-4cba-bea9-35e42ddf6118
Ezard, Thomas H.G.
a143a893-07d0-4673-a2dd-cea2cd7e1374
Festa-Bianchet, Marco
b4e152db-05d9-4d34-a7ce-6b811ec5ef30
Coltman, David W.
0a087f35-1d52-4b75-b8b0-ca74da7e1c30
Pelletier, Fanie
4c48ece9-912b-4ce4-a5dd-a5269905500b

Pigeon, Gabriel, Ezard, Thomas H.G., Festa-Bianchet, Marco, Coltman, David W. and Pelletier, Fanie (2017) Fluctuating effects of genetic and plastic changes in body mass on population dynamics in a large herbivore. Ecology, 98 (9), 2456–2467. (doi:10.1002/ecy.1940).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Recent studies suggest that evolutionary changes can occur on a contemporary time scale. Hence, evolution can influence ecology and vice-versa. To understand the importance of eco-evolutionary dynamics in population dynamics, we must quantify the relative contribution of ecological and evolutionary changes to population growth and other ecological processes. To date, however, most eco-evolutionary dynamics studies have not partitioned the relative contribution of plastic and evolutionary changes in traits on population, community, and ecosystem processes. Here, we quantify the effects of heritable and non-heritable changes in body mass distribution on survival, recruitment, and population growth in wild bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) and compare their importance to the effects of changes in age structure, population density, and weather. We applied a combination of a pedigree-based quantitative genetics model, statistical analyses of demography, and a new statistical decomposition technique, the Geber method, to a long-term data set of bighorn sheep on Ram Mountain (Canada), monitored individually from 1975 to 2012. We show three main results: (1) The relative importance of heritable change in mass, non-heritable change in mass, age structure, density, and climate on population growth rate changed substantially over time. (2) An increase in body mass was accompanied by an increase in population growth through higher survival and recruitment rate. (3) Over the entire study period, changes in the body mass distribution of ewes, mostly through non-heritable changes, affected population growth to a similar extent as changes in age structure or in density. The importance of evolutionary changes was small compared to that of other drivers of changes in population growth but increased with time as evolutionary changes accumulated. Evolutionary changes became increasingly important for population growth as the length of the study period considered increased. Our results highlight the complex ways in which ecological and evolutionary changes can affect population dynamics and illustrate the large potential effect of trait changes on population processes.

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Accepted/In Press date: 20 June 2017
e-pub ahead of print date: 2 August 2017
Published date: 1 September 2017

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 413674
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/413674
ISSN: 0012-9658
PURE UUID: 23bc0e4b-00cf-4448-86f8-814198527285
ORCID for Thomas H.G. Ezard: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-8305-6605

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Date deposited: 31 Aug 2017 16:31
Last modified: 07 Oct 2020 02:03

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Contributors

Author: Gabriel Pigeon
Author: Thomas H.G. Ezard ORCID iD
Author: Marco Festa-Bianchet
Author: David W. Coltman
Author: Fanie Pelletier

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