Bernard J. Crespi
Vicious circles: positive feedback in major evolutionary and ecological transitions
JOURNAL, DATE AND PAGES
Evolutionary biologists and ecologists often focus on equilibrium states that are subject to forms of negative feedback, such as optima for phenotypic traits or regulation of population sizes. However, recent theoretical and empirical studies show how positive feedback can be instrumental in driving many of the most important and spectacular processes in evolutionary ecology, including the evolution of sex and genetic systems, mating systems, life histories, complex cooperation in insects and humans, ecological specialization, species diversity, species ranges, speciation and extinction. Taken together, this work suggests that positive feedback is more common than is generally appreciated, and that its self-reinforcing dynamics generate the conditions for changes that might otherwise be difficult or impossible for selection or other mechanisms to achieve. Testing for positive feedback requires analysing each causal link in feedback loops, tracking genetic, character and population-dynamic changes across generations, and elucidating the conditions that can result in self-reinforcing change.