Local adaptation in Trinidadian guppies alters ecosystem processes

Ronald D. Bassar, Michael C. Marshall, Andrés López-Sepulcre, Eugenia Zandonà, Sonya K. Auer, Joseph Travis, Catherine M. Pringle, Alexander S. Flecker, Steven A. Thomas, Douglas F. Fraser, David N. Reznick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

269 Scopus citations


Theory suggests evolutionary change can significantly influence and act in tandem with ecological forces via ecological-evolutionary feedbacks. This theory assumes that significant evolutionary change occurs over ecologically relevant timescales and that phenotypes have differential effects on the environment. Here we test the hypothesis that local adaptation causes ecosystem structure and function to diverge.We demonstrate that populations of Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata), characterized by differences in phenotypic and population-level traits, differ in their impact on ecosystem properties. We report results froma replicated, common gardenmesocosm experiment and show that differences between guppy phenotypes result in the divergence of ecosystem structure (algal, invertebrate, and detrital standing stocks) and function (gross primary productivity, leaf decomposition rates, and nutrient flux). These phenotypic effects are further modified by effects of guppy density. We evaluated the generality of these effects by replicating the experiment using guppies derived fromtwoindependent origins of the phenotype. Finally, we tested the ability of multiple guppy traits to explain observed differences in themesocosms.Our findings demonstrate that evolution can significantly affect both ecosystem structure and function. The ecosystem differences reported here are consistent with patterns observed across natural streams and argue that guppies play a significant role in shaping these ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3616-3621
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 23 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Ecological-evolutionary feedbacks
  • Ecosystem function
  • Intraspecific variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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