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Data from: Does intraspecific competition promote variation? A test via synthesis

Cite this dataset

Jones, Andrew W.; Post, David M. (2017). Data from: Does intraspecific competition promote variation? A test via synthesis [Dataset]. Dryad.


Competitive diversification, that is, when increasing intraspecific competition promotes population niche expansion, is commonly invoked in evolutionary studies and currently plays a central role in how we conceptualize the process of adaptive diversification. Despite the frequency with which this idea is cited, the empirical evidence for the process is somewhat limited, and the findings of these studies have yet to be weighed objectively through synthesis. Here, we sought to fill this gap by reviewing the existing literature and collecting the data necessary to assess the evidence for competition as a diversifying force. Additionally, we sought to test a more recent hypothesis, which suggests that competition can act to both promote and inhibit dietary diversification depending on the degree to which a consumer depletes its resources. The surprising result of this synthesis was that increasing competition did not have a mean positive effect on population-level diet breadth or the degree of individual specialization. Instead, we found that increasing intraspecific competition had a restricting effect on population-level diet breadth in as many cases as it had a diversifying effect. This wide disparity in the effect of competition on consumer diet variation was negatively related to a metric for consumer resource depletion. Altogether, these findings call into question a long-standing assumption of basic evolutionary models and lend some support to recent theoretical predictions. Specifically, these findings support the idea that competition is primarily diversifying for species with a small effect (per unit biomass) on their resources and that resource depletion limits the diversifying effect of competition for consumers with larger ecological effects.

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