Separation of Evolutionary Timescales in Coevolving Species


Buckingham LJ & Ashby B. (2024) Separation of Evolutionary Timescales in Coevolving Species. J. Theor. Biol. 579:111688.

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Many coevolutionary processes, including host-parasite and host-symbiont interactions, involve one species or trait which evolves much faster than the other. Whether or not a coevolutionary trajectory converges depends on the relative rates of evolutionary change in the two species, and so current adaptive dynamics approaches generally either determine convergence stability by considering arbitrary (often comparable) rates of evolutionary change or else rely on necessary or sufficient conditions for convergence stability. We propose a method for determining convergence stability in the case where one species is expected to evolve much faster than the other. This requires a second separation of timescales, which assumes that the faster evolving species will reach its evolutionary equilibrium (if one exists) before a new mutation arises in the more slowly evolving species. This method, which is likely to be a reasonable approximation for many coevolving species, both provides straightforward conditions for convergence stability and is less computationally expensive than traditional analysis of coevolution models, as it reduces the trait space from a two-dimensional plane to a one-dimensional manifold. In this paper, we present the theory underlying this new separation of timescales and provide examples of how it could be used to determine coevolutionary outcomes from models.