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Experimental Test of an Eco-Evolutionary Dynamic Feedback Loop between Evolution and Population Density in the Green Peach Aphid

An eco-evolutionary feedback loop is defined as the reciprocal impacts of ecology on evolutionary dynamics and evolution on ecological dynamics on contemporary timescales. We experimentally tested for an eco-evolutionary feedback loop in the green peach aphid, Myzus persicae, by manipulating initial densities and evolution. We found strong evidence that initial aphid density alters the rate and direction of evolution, as measured by changes in genotype frequencies through time. We also found that evolution of aphids within only 16 days, or approximately three generations, alters the rate of population growth and predicts density compared to nonevolving controls. The impact of evolution on population dynamics also depended on density. In one evolution treatment, evolution accelerated population growth by up to 10.3% at high initial density or reduced it by up to 6.4% at low initial density. The impact of evolution on population growth was as strong as or stronger than that caused by a threefold change in intraspecific density. We found that, taken together, ecological condition, here intraspecific density, alters evolutionary dynamics, which in turn alter concurrent population growth rate (ecological dynamics) in an eco-evolutionary feedback loop. Our results suggest that ignoring evolution in studies predicting population dynamics might lead us to over- or underestimate population density and that we cannot predict the evolutionary outcome within aphid populations without considering population size.