The community context of coevolution

Jordi Bascompte

Fernando Pedraza Perez

Owen Petchey

Matthew Barbour

Goal

Our goal is to come up with a conceptual framework to start addressing questions about how coevolution proceeds as we move from pairs of interacting species all the way to complex networks of species interdependencies.

Summary

The web of life is shaped by the reciprocal evolution of interacting species. Thus, understanding how species coevolve in complex networks of interactions is one of the great challenges in ecology and evolution. Using theoretical methods we aim to build a framework to analyse coevolution in large-scale networks. Particularly, we will explore: i) how coevolutionary dynamics are affected as we move from pair-wise interactions to complex assemblages and ii) the role network architecture plays on coevolutionary processes. The insights we gain will advance our understanding of evolution in complex networks and generate hypothesis that can then be tested experimentally.

Research

Computer simulations and mathematical models will serve as the basic toolbox to address particular questions regarding coevolution in networks. For instance, the digital evolution platform AVIDA will be employed to understand how the molecular basis of bacterial infection by phages alters coevolutionary dynamics and network structure. Analytical models and stochastic methods will be used to understand how indirect selection pressures operate in large-scale networks, how spatial heterogeneity affects coevolution and how traits evolve in networks of interactions.