When members of two species compete directly with each other, scientists believe the one that rolls with the evolutionary punches and adapts most quickly has the upper hand. But new evidence suggests that in relationships that benefit both species, the one that evolves more slowly has the advantage.
"The idea that has been dominant for the last couple of decades is that when two species co-evolve, they try to outrun each other," said Carl Bergstrom, a University of Washington assistant zoology professor. But that doesnt necessarily hold true for individuals of different species engaged in a mutualistic, or symbiotic, relationship. In such cases, he said, the one that evolves more slowly is likely to gain a disproportionate share of benefits from the relationship.
A predator, for example, typically must evolve rapidly so that it doesnt fall behind the evolutionary advances of its prey and thus miss lunch. That has been termed the "Red Queen effect" after the character in Lewis Carrolls "Through the Looking Glass," who said, "It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place."
Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
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