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Parallel Evolution And Ecological Selection: Replicated Character Displacement In Spadefoot Toads

Amber M. Rice, Aaron R. Leichty, David W. Pfennig

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Ecological character displacement—trait evolution stemming from selection to lessen resource competition between species—is most often inferred from a pattern in which species differ in resource-use traits in sympatry but not in allopatry, and in which sympatric populations within each species differ from conspecific allopatric populations. Yet, without information on population history, the presence of a divergent phenotype in multiple sympatric populations does not necessarily imply that there has been repeated evolution of character displacement. Instead, such a pattern may arise if there has been character displacement in a single ancestral population, followed by gene flow carrying the divergent phenotype into multiple, derived, sympatric populations. Here, we evaluate the likelihood of such historical events versus ongoing ecological selection in generating divergence in trophic morphology between multiple populations of spadefoot toad ( Spea multiplicata ) tadpoles that are in sympatry with a heterospecific and those that are in allopatry. We present both phylogenetic and population genetic evidence indicating that the same divergent trait, which minimizes resource competition with the heterospecific, has arisen independently in multiple sympatric populations. These data, therefore, provide strong indirect support for competition's role in divergent trait evolution.