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Toward a stoichiometric framework for evolutionary biology
  • Andrew J Kerkhoff, Kenyon College
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Ecological stoichiometry, the study of the balance of energy and materials in living systems, may serve as a useful synthetic framework for evolutionary biology. Here, we review recent work that illustrates the power of a stoichiometric approach to evolution across multiple scales, and then point to important open questions that may chart the way forward in this new field. At the molecular level, stoichiometry links hereditary changes in the molecular composition of organisms to key phenotypic functions. At the level of evolutionary ecology, a simultaneous focus on the energetic and material underpinnings of evolutionary tradeoffs and transactions highlights the relationship between the cost of resource acquisition and the functional consequences of biochemical composition. At the macroevolutionary level, a stoichiometric perspective can better operationalize models of adaptive radiation and escalation, and elucidate links between evolutionary innovation and the development of global biogeochemical cycles. Because ecological stoichiometry focuses on the interaction of energetic and multiple material currencies, it should provide new opportunities for coupling evolutionary dynamics across scales from genomes to the biosphere
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Kay, A.D., Ashton, I.W., Gorokhova, E., Kerkhoff, A.J., Liess, A., and Litchman, E. 2005. Toward a stoichiometric framework for evolutionary biology. Oikos 109:6-17.