Megan Frederickson

Associate Professor,
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology,
University of Toronto, Canada

From micro- to macro-evolutionary perspectives on mutualism evolution

Smithsonian Image

There are two conflicting ideas about mutualism evolution. On the one hand, mutualisms are widely expected to be destabilized by fitness conflicts between partners or selection for “cheating,” meaning that mutualisms ought to be transient interactions that break down frequently over ecological or evolutionary time. Furthermore, the specialized life histories of some mutualists may constrain their abundance or range, or increase their risk of extinction. On the other hand, the evolution of mutualism may broaden the niche of a lineage, provide new ecological opportunity, and even lead to adaptive radiation, meaning that mutualists may be more ecologically or evolutionarily successful than non-mutualists. I will describe recent work from my lab that sheds light on whether the evolution of mutualism causes lineages to founder, or whether it helps lineages flourish.

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