Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Studies of co-evolution biased toward “striking and exaggerated phenotypes”, researchers say


The authors seem to suspect that “the widespread impression that coevolution is a rare and quirky sideshow to the day-to-day grind of ecology and evolution” is wrong and that new tools for uncovering it will show it to be more common.

Abstract Studies of coevolution in the wild have largely focused on reciprocally specialized species pairs with striking and exaggerated phenotypes. Textbook examples include interactions between toxic newts and their garter snake predators, long-tongued flies and the flowers they pollinate, and weevils with elongated rostra used to bore through the defensive pericarp of their host plants. Although these studies have laid a foundation for understanding coevolution in the wild, they have also contributed to the widespread impression that coevolution is a rare and quirky sideshow to the day-to-day grind of ecology and evolution. In this perspective, we argue that the focus of coevolution has been biased toward the obvious and ignored the cryptic. We have focused on the obvious—studies of reciprocally specialized species pairs with exaggerated phenotypes—mainly because we have lacked the statistical tools required to study coevolution in more generalized and phenotypically mundane systems. Building from well-established coevolutionary theory, we illustrate how model-based approaches can be used to remove this barrier and begin estimating the strength of coevolutionary selection indirectly using routinely collected data, thus uncovering cryptic coevolution in more typical communities. By allowing the distribution of coevolutionary selection to be estimated across genomes, phylogenies, and communities and over deep timescales, these novel approaches have the potential to revolutionize the way we study coevolution. As we develop a road map to these next-generation approaches, we highlight recent studies making notable progress in this direction.

Scott L. Nuismer, Bob Week, and LukeJ.Harmon, Uncovering Cryptic Coevolution, American Naturalist, vol. 199, no. 6, June 2022

The paper is open access.

Co-evolution must require a fair amount of cooperation between utterly different life forms. If natural selection is the model, one failure would end a multi-stage process.

Hat tip: Pos-darwinista

Did Darwinists really lost their minds ?
Nope. They can't lose what they don't have. Sandy
Co-evolution ... just another example of Darwinian madness ... How on earth can random mutations simultaneously design a lock and key so it fits ? E.g. mammalian genitals ... Did Darwinists really lost their minds ? martin_r
Those specific examples are penotypes. polistra

Leave a Reply