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Environmental change, including climate change, can cause rapid phenotypic change via both ecological and evolutionary processes. Because ecological and evolutionary dynamics are intimately linked, a major challenge is to identify their relative roles. We exactly decomposed the change in mean body weight in a free-living population of Soay sheep into all the processes that contribute to change. Ecological processes contribute most, with selection--the underpinning of adaptive evolution--explaining little of the observed phenotypic trend. Our results enable us to explain why selection has so little effect even though weight is heritable, and why environmental change has caused a decline in the body size of Soay sheep.

Original publication

DOI

10.1126/science.1173668

Type

Journal article

Journal

Science

Publication Date

24/07/2009

Volume

325

Pages

464 - 467

Keywords

Adaptation, Biological, Animals, Biological Evolution, Body Size, Body Weight, Ecosystem, Environment, Female, Male, Models, Biological, Phenotype, Sheep, Domestic