The influence of trade-off shape on evolutionary behaviour in classical ecological scenarios

Andrew Hoyle, Roger G. Bowers, Andrew White, Michael Boots

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53 Citations (Scopus)


Trade-off shapes are crucial to evolutionary outcomes. However, due to different ecological feedbacks their implications may depend not only on the trade-off being considered but also the ecological scenario. Here, we apply a novel geometric technique, trade-off and invasion plots (TIPs), to examine in detail how the shape of trade-off relationships affect evolutionary outcomes under a range of classic ecological scenarios including Lotka-Volterra type and host-parasite interactions. We choose models of increasing complexity in order to gain an insight into the features of ecological systems that determine the evolutionary outcomes. In particular we focus on when evolutionary attractors, repellors and branching points occur and how this depends on whether the costs are accelerating (benefits become 'increasingly' costly), decelerating (benefits become 'decreasingly' costly) or constant. In all cases strongly accelerating costs lead to attractors while strongly decelerating ones lead to repellors, but with weaker relationships, this no longer holds. For some systems weakly accelerating costs may lead to repellors and decelerating costs may lead to attractors. In many scenarios it is weakly decelerating costs that lead to branching points, but weakly accelerating and linear costs may also lead to disruptive selection in particular ecological scenarios. Using our models we suggest a classification of ecological interactions, based on three distinct criteria, that can produce one of four fundamental TIPs which allow for different evolutionary behaviour. This provides a baseline theory which may inform the prediction of evolutionary outcomes in similar yet unexplored ecological scenarios. In addition we discuss the implications of our results to a number of specific life-history trade-offs in the classic ecological scenarios represented by our models. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-511
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2008


  • Evolution
  • Frequency dependence
  • Shapes
  • TIPs
  • Trade-offs


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