Evolutionary biology has long sought to explain how new traits and new species arise. Darwin maintained that competition is key to understanding this biodiversity and held that selection acting to minimize competition causes competitors to become increasingly different, thereby promoting new traits and new species. Despite Darwin’s emphasis, competition’s role in diversification remains controversial and largely underappreciated.
In their synthetic and provocative book, evolutionary ecologists David and Karin Pfennig explore competition's role in generating and maintaining biodiversity. The authors discuss how selection can lessen resource competition or costly reproductive interactions by promoting trait evolution through a process known as character displacement. They further describe character displacement’s underlying genetic and developmental mechanisms. The authors then consider character displacement’s myriad downstream effects, ranging from shaping ecological communities to promoting new traits and new species and even fueling large-scale evolutionary trends. Drawing on numerous studies from natural populations, and written for a broad audience, Evolution’s Wedge seeks to inspire future research into character displacement’s many implications for ecology and evolution.
“The A to Z of character displacement, an exemplary mixture of explanation and inspiration.”
- Peter R. Grant, Princeton University, author of How and Why Species Multiply
"Though there have been a handful of volumes that cover the importance of competition to biological diversity in the past decade, none has so succinctly reviewed the entire field while also delving into speculative but highly innovative and biologically meaningful digressions regarding the role of competition in areas such as phenotypic plasticity, speciation, and macroevolution. The book will be an excellent addition to every biologist’s library."
- Ryan Calsbeek, Dartmouth College
“This book does an excellent job of conveying both the current state of knowledge of character displacement and also the areas where more research is needed. It will be a valuable resource for students and researchers interested in the evolutionary processes generating and maintaining biological diversity.”
- Gregory F. Grether, University of California, Los Angeles
1. Discovery of a Unifying Principle
2. Why Character Displacement Occurs
3. When Character Displacement Occurs
4. How Character Displacement Unfolds
5. Diversity and Novelty Within Species
6. Ecological Consequences
7. Sexual Selection
10. Major Themes and Unsolved Problems
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David W. Pfennig is Professor of Biology at the University of North Carolina. Karin S. Pfennig is Associate Professor of Biology at the University of North Carolina.