When traits affecting species interactions evolve rapidly, ecological dynamics can be altered while they occur. These eco-evolutionary dynamics have been documented repeatedly in laboratory and mesocosm experiments. We show here that they are also important for understanding community functioning in a natural ecosystem. Daphnia is a major planktonic consumer influencing seasonal plankton dynamics in many lakes. It is also sensitive to succession in its phytoplankton food, from edible algae in spring to relatively inedible cyanobacteria in summer. We show for Daphnia mendotae in Oneida Lake, New York, United States, that within-year ecological change in phytoplankton (from spring diatoms, cryptophytes and greens to summer cyanobacteria) resulted in consumers evolving increasing tolerance to cyanobacteria over time. This evolution fed back on ecological seasonal changes in population abundance of this major phytoplankton consumer. Oneida Lake is typical of mesotrophic lakes broadly, suggesting that eco-evolutionary consumer-resource dynamics is probably common.
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Sample preparation for microsatellite DNA sequencing was carried out by E. Keller and S. Bogdanowicz advised on interpretation of genotype data. J. Geyer, D. Oden and A. Wong helped in the laboratory and field. W. Lampert contributed insights to the JGR measure. P. McIntyre, R. Wilkins, K. Sirianni, L. Zarri, E. Larson and members of the Hairston–Flecker laboratory groups provided helpful comments on the manuscript. The research was supported by US National Science Foundation grant no. DEB-1256719 to N.G.H., S.P.E. and B.E.M., KU Leuven Research Fund grant no. C16/2017/02 to L.D.M., a Research Foundation–Flanders travel grant and Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology PhD fellowship to L.G. and by Doris Duke Foundation internship funding to E.F. The CBFS and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation supported field sampling and processing.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Schaffner, L.R., Govaert, L., De Meester, L. et al. Consumer-resource dynamics is an eco-evolutionary process in a natural plankton community. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 1351–1358 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-019-0960-9
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