Landmark Article From Edward O. Wilson Character Displacement; Signed Twice by Him

  • Society of Systematic Biology: Systematic Zoology.

Society of Systematic Biology: Systematic Zoology.


Item Number: 38014

Society of Systematic Zoology, 1956.

Octavo, original wrappers. Original landmark paper by W.L. Brown and E.O. Wilson’s paper on Character Displacement. Signed on the front cover by Edward O. Wilson and again signed by him at at his contribution, with a drawing of an ant. In very good condition with a small library stamp from a University Museum of Natural History. Rare and desirable.

Character displacement is the phenomenon where differences among similar species whose distributions overlap geographically are accentuated in regions where the species co-occur, but are minimized or lost where the species’ distributions do not overlap. This pattern results from evolutionary change driven by biological competition among species for a limited resource (e.g. food). The rationale for character displacement stems from the competitive exclusion principle, also called Gause's Law, which contends that to coexist in a stable environment two competing species must differ in their respective ecological niche; without differentiation, one species will eliminate or exclude the other through competition. Character displacement was first explicitly explained by William L. Brown and E. O. Wilson (1956): “Two closely related species have overlapping ranges. In the parts of the ranges where one species occurs alone, the populations of that species are similar to the other species and may even be very difficult to distinguish from it. In the area of overlap, where the two species occur together, the populations are more divergent and easily distinguished, i.e., they “displace” one another in one or more characters. The characters involved can be morphological, ecological, behavioral, or physiological; they are assumed to be genetically based.” Brown and Wilson (1956) used the term character displacement to refer to instances of both reproductive character displacement, or reinforcement of reproductive barriers, and ecological character displacement driven by competition. As the term character displacement is commonly used, it generally refers to morphological differences due to competition. Brown and Wilson viewed character displacement as phenomenon involved in speciation, stating, “we believe that it is a common aspect of geographical speciation, arising most often as a product of the genetic and ecological interaction of two (or more) newly evolved, cognate species [derived from the same immediate parental species] during their period of first contact” (1956). While character displacement is important in various scenarios of speciation, including adaptive radiations like the cichlid fish faunas in the rift lakes of East Africa (Meyer 1993), it also plays an important role in structuring communities. The results of numerous studies contribute evidence that character displacement often influences the evolution of resource acquisition among members of an ecological guild (Dayan and Simberloff 2005).

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