Running with the Red Queen: the role of biotic conflicts in evolution

Michael A. Brockhurst, Tracey Chapman, Kayla C. King, Judith E. Mank, Steve Paterson, Gregory D. D. Hurst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

178 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


What are the causes of natural selection? Over 40 years ago, Van Valen proposed the Red Queen hypothesis, which emphasized the primacy of biotic conflict over abiotic forces in driving selection. Species must continually evolve to survive in the face of their evolving enemies, yet on average their fitness remains unchanged. We define three modes of Red Queen coevolution to unify both fluctuating and directional selection within the Red Queen framework. Empirical evidence from natural interspecific antagonisms provides support for each of these modes of coevolution and suggests that they often operate simultaneously. We argue that understanding the evolutionary forces associated with interspecific interactions requires incorporation of a community framework, in which new interactions occur frequently. During their early phases, these newly established interactions are likely to drive fast evolution of both parties. We further argue that a more complete synthesis of Red Queen forces requires incorporation of the evolutionary conflicts within species that arise from sexual reproduction. Reciprocally, taking the Red Queen's perspective advances our understanding of the evolution of these intraspecific conflicts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1797
Early online date29 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2014

Cite this