Classical theory on community ecology models dynamics as interplay between top-down and bottom-up effects of population abundances only and considers population composition irrelevant. It ignores food-dependent ontogenetic development, in particular somatic growth, which characterizes most species and uniquely distinguishes organisms from fundamental units in physical or chemical multi-particle systems. Similarly, evolutionary theory has ignored the potential population feedback on food-dependent ontogenetic development. Classic theory has been shown to apply in case of ontogenetic symmetry in energetics, when dynamics of population abundance and composition are independent. Ontogenetic symmetry stipulates that mass-specific rates of net biomass turnover are independent of individual body size. Ontogenetic symmetry only represents a limiting, structurally unstable case, separating two stable domains with ontogenetic asymmetry in energetics, when either juveniles or adults have higher mass-specific net-biomass production. In case of ontogenetic asymmetry the dynamics of population abundance and composition become intimately linked, ultimately resulting in the emergence of positive feedbacks between densities of predators and their main prey. This transforms consumer-resource interactions into indivisible units, whose behavior can no longer be predicted from its constituting parts (the species). Ontogenetic asymmetry in energetics is thus a potent driver of self-organization in ecological communities. This research project aims at unraveling the eco-evolutionary dynamics of ontogenetic asymmetry in energetics, focusing on (1) the likelihood that ontogenetic asymmetry in energetics evolves as mechanism of self-organization in ecological communities, (2) the conditions that may have promoted or inhibited this evolution and (3) the extent to which ontogenetic asymmetry in energetics has contributed to the diversity of life and the development of complex life cycles.
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