UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Five studies in life history evolution Blachford, Alistair M.


Assortative mating by fitness has the potential population-level benefit of reducing migration load during times of environmental stasis, while allowing introgression of immigrant genetic variation in the event of environmental change. Assortative mating by fitness was examined with respect to within-population spread of a recombination modifier under selective sweep and mutation-selection balance scenarios. Only the latter scenario boosted modifier frequency, given a strength of assortative mating unlikely to be present in most species. In a second attempt to identify a new general advantage for sexual reproduction, the focus was on how inter-individual reproduction might reduce noise in inheritance and increase the power of selection. Individuals can experience good and bad "luck" at various stages of their life history, in any habitat, and it was found that combining gametes from two separate experiences of this ecological noise could indeed reduce noise in inheritance. The puzzle of small mammal population density cycles was approached from an evolutionary, rather than a population regulation perspective. An appropriate pattern of reproductive effort would seem key to survival through repeated population crashes to low numbers. Small mammals reproduce below their apparent potential through the decline and into the low phase of a cycle, and determining whether this reproductive pattern is adaptive is an important question. A standard cycling analytical model, the Rosenzweig-MacArthur, was carefully examined for the basis of this life history work, and found wanting even after considering several modifications. So an individual-based simulation was done. For simplicity and generality a novel mechanism was used: the "cumulative recent activity" of a population predicts several mortality causes, and has the property of delayed density dependence required to drive cycles. If animals cue from this quantity, then some controversy-causing experimental results might be explained. Branching theory and the simulation model showed that reproductive slowdown evolves under high mortality rates and, given a premium on short term persistence such as might exist at low numbers or densities, at low mortality rates. This explains the reproductive pattern observed in cycling mammals. The known reproductive suppression by stress physiology now appears to be adaptive, rather than inadvertent.

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