Evolutionary dynamics of traits with long-term ecological effects

Iris Prigent
Evolutionary dynamics of traits with long-term ecological effects

Organisms continuously modify their environment, often impacting the fitness of future conspecifics due to ecological inheritance. To understand the implications of such inheritance for phenotypic diversity, I investigate the coevolution of multiple traits in a group-structured population when these traits affect the group environment, which is then bequeathed to future generations. I am particularly interested when such coevolution favours polymorphism as well as the resulting associations among traits.

I find for instance that two traits become associated when one trait affects the environment while the other influences the likelihood that future kin experience this environment. To illustrate this, I have focused on the coevolution of (a) the attack rate on a local renewable resource, which deteriorates environmental conditions, with (b) dispersal between groups, which reduces the likelihood that kin suffers from such deterioration. I find this often leads to the emergence of two highly-differentiated morphs: one that readily disperses and depletes local resources; and another that maintains these resources and tends to remain philopatric. More broadly, my research suggests that ecological inheritance can contribute to phenotypic diversity and lead to complex polymorphism.


  • Iris Prigent, Charles Mullon. The moulding of intra-specific diversity by selection under ecological inheritance. Evolution. 2023.