Continual evolution through coupled fast and slow feedbacks

Meike T. Wortel, Han Peters, Juan A. Bonachela, Nils Chr Stenseth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Continual evolution describes the unceasing evolution of at least one trait involving at least one organism. The Red Queen Hypothesis is a specific case in which continual evolution results from coevolution of at least two species. While microevolutionary studies have described examples in which evolution does not cease, understanding which general conditions lead to continual evolution or to stasis remains a major challenge. In many cases, it is unclear which experimental features or model assumptions are necessary for the observed continual evolution to emerge, and whether the described behavior is robust to variations in the given setup. Here, we aim to find the minimal set of conditions under which continual evolution occurs. To this end, we present a theoretical framework that does not assume any specific functional form and, therefore, can be applied to a wide variety of systems. Our framework is also general enough to make predictions about both monomorphic and polymorphic populations. We show that the combination of a fast positive and a slow negative feedback between environment, population, and evolving traits causes continual evolution to emerge even from the evolution of a single evolving trait, provided that the ecological timescale is sufficiently faster than the timescales of mutation and the negative feedback. Our approach and results thus contribute to a deeper understanding of the evolutionary dynamics resulting from biotic interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4234-4242
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 25 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Ecoevolutionary dynamics
  • Evolutionary modeling
  • Fast–slow feedbacks
  • Red Queen


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