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Journal Articles Oikos Year : 2021

Identifying conversion efficiency as a key mechanism underlying food webs evolution : a step forward, or backward ?

Abstract

Body size or mass is one of the main factors underlying food webs structure. A large number of evolutionary models have shown that indeed, the adaptive evolution of body size (or mass) can give rise to hierarchically organised trophic levels with complex between and within trophic interactions. However, these models generally make strong arbitrary assumptions on how traits evolve, casting doubts on their robustness. In particular, biomass conversion efficiency is always considered independent of the predator and prey size, which contradicts with the literature. In this paper, we propose a general model encompassing most previous models which allows to show that relaxing arbitrary assumptions gives rise to unrealistic food webs. We then show that considering biomass conversion efficiency dependent on species size is certainly key for food webs adaptive evolution because realistic food webs can evolve, making obsolete the need of arbitrary constraints on traits' evolution. We finally conclude that, on the one hand, ecologists should pay attention to how biomass flows into food webs in models. On the other hand, we question more generally the robustness of evolutionary models for the study of food webs.
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Dates and versions

hal-02129313 , version 1 (14-05-2019)
hal-02129313 , version 2 (09-02-2021)
hal-02129313 , version 3 (13-07-2021)

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Coralie Fritsch, Sylvain Billiard, Nicolas Champagnat. Identifying conversion efficiency as a key mechanism underlying food webs evolution : a step forward, or backward ?. Oikos, 2021, 130 (6), pp.904-930. ⟨10.1111/oik.07421⟩. ⟨hal-02129313v3⟩
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