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Scaling the risk landscape drives optimal life-history strategies and the evolution of grazing.

  • Author(s): Bhat, Uttam
  • Kempes, Christopher P
  • Yeakel, Justin D
  • et al.
Abstract

Consumers face numerous risks that can be minimized by incorporating different life-history strategies. How much and when a consumer adds to its energetic reserves or invests in reproduction are key behavioral and physiological adaptations that structure communities. Here we develop a theoretical framework that explicitly accounts for stochastic fluctuations of an individual consumer's energetic reserves while foraging and reproducing on a landscape with resources that range from uniformly distributed to highly clustered. First, we show that the selection of alternative life histories depends on both the mean and variance of resource availability, where depleted and more stochastic environments promote investment in each reproductive event at the expense of future fitness as well as more investment per offspring. We then show that if resource variance scales with body size due to landscape clustering, consumers that forage for clustered foods are susceptible to strong Allee effects, increasing extinction risk. Finally, we show that the proposed relationship between resource distributions, consumer body size, and emergent demographic risk offers key ecological insights into the evolution of large-bodied grazing herbivores from small-bodied browsing ancestors.

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