Evol Ecol Res 17: 619-636 (2016)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

On strategies of plant behaviour: evolutionary games of habitat selection, defence, and foraging

Douglas W. Morris1, Per Lundberg2 and Joel S. Brown3

1Department of Biology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada,  2Department of Biology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden and  3Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Correspondence: D.W. Morris, Department of Biology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario P7B 5E1, Canada. email: d.morris@lakeheadu.ca


Background: Strategies of habitat selection, defence, and foraging depend critically on population density and the frequency of alternative strategies: they are evolutionary games. Although commonly modelled in studies of animal behaviour, they are less frequently used to provide insights into the behaviour of plants. A ‘review’ and analysis of how these universal strategies apply to plants should help motivate further development of plant evolutionary games.

Questions: Should plants practise density-dependent habitat selection? Do games of plant defence depend on demography and habitat quality? How similar are games of competition for nutrients and light?

Methods and models: Assessments of eco-evolutionary dynamics with computer simulations (habitat selection), evolutionary invasion analysis (defence), and G-functions (foraging).

Results: Selection gradients for pre-emptive habitat selection are steeper than those for passive dispersal and yield an advantage that increases with population density. The evolutionarily stable defence level in a homogeneous environment is proportional to the ratio of survival by mature versus immature plants. In heterogeneous environments, investments in herbivore defence depend on habitat quality and are resolved by habitat selection. Games of competition for both nutrients and light predict Tragedies of the Commons in which size, density, and investment in tissue that does not directly contribute to fitness depend on the source of competition.

Conclusion: Much of the dynamic feedback between the ecology of plants and their evolution can be understood with models of three universal processes: habitat selection, safety and defence against enemies, and foraging for nutrients and other resources. The specifics of models may differ among taxa, but not the underlying density and frequency dependence of their eco-evolutionary strategies.

Keywords: adaptive landscape, defence, evolutionarily stable strategies, evolutionary game theory, habitat selection, height in trees, nutrient foraging, Tragedy of the Commons.

IF you are connected using the IP of a subscribing institution (library, laboratory, etc.)
or through its VPN.


        © 2016 Douglas W. Morris. All EER articles are copyrighted by their authors. All authors endorse, permit and license Evolutionary Ecology Ltd. to grant its subscribing institutions/libraries the copying privileges specified below without additional consideration or payment to them or to Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. These endorsements, in writing, are on file in the office of Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. Consult authors for permission to use any portion of their work in derivative works, compilations or to distribute their work in any commercial manner.

       Subscribing institutions/libraries may grant individuals the privilege of making a single copy of an EER article for non-commercial educational or non-commercial research purposes. Subscribing institutions/libraries may also use articles for non-commercial educational purposes by making any number of copies for course packs or course reserve collections. Subscribing institutions/libraries may also loan single copies of articles to non-commercial libraries for educational purposes.

       All copies of abstracts and articles must preserve their copyright notice without modification.