Community genetics is a burgeoning field within biology that seeks to bridge community ecology and evolutionary biology (1). Population genetics has been intensively studied for decades, and it has effectively married population ecology with evolutionary biology. Despite the advances made in population genetics, there is relatively little known about the interplay between population genetics, community ecology, and evolutionary dynamics within a community context. In recognition of this gap, Dr. Janis Antonovics called for the formation of a new subdiscipline (2) - Community Genetics. He proposed that community genetics would investigate "evolutionary genetic processes that occur among interacting populations in communities”. Over ten years later, there is an explosion of interest and research, with numerous researchers now involved with community genetics research.
Questions within community genetics fall along a continuum between ecology and evolution (3). From an ecological perspective, we are trying to understand how genotype identity (4-7) and genetic diversity within populations (8-10) of a single species affects the structure and composition of communities. From an evolutionary perspective, community genetics seeks to elucidate the importance of two processes. First, how evolutionary processes shape community patterns (11-13); this is a direct extension of Richard Dawkins' concept of the extended phenotype (14, 15). On the flip-side of this evolutionary coin is the study of how species within communities concomitantly select on the genetic variation within a single species (i.e., diffuse selection)(3).
Community genetics has broad application, as it is being applied to understand the effects of genetic variation on ecosystem functioning (16, 17), agriculture (18), conservation (10, 18, 19), and human health concerns (20).
A non-exhaustive list of many of the people studying community genetics can be reached from this page [click here].
- See the Special Feature in the March 2003 issue Ecology Vol. 84(3).
- Antonovics, J. 1992 Towards community genetics. In Plant Resistance to Herbivores and Pathogens: Ecology, Evolution and Genetics (eds. Fritz, R.S., and Simms, E.L.). University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
- Johnson, M.T.J., and Stinchcombe, J.R. 2007 An emerging synthesis between community ecology and evolutionary biology. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 22(5).
- Fritz, R.S., and Price, P.W. 1988. Genetic variation among plants and insect community structure: willows and sawflies
- Hochwender, C.G., and Fritz, R.S. 2004. Plant genetic differences influence herbivore community structure: evidence from a hybrid willow system. Oecologia 138: 547-557.
- Wimp, G.M. et al. 2005. Plant genetic determinant of arthropod community structure and diversity. Evolutoin: 59: 61-69.
- Johnson, M.T.J. & Agrawal, A.A. 2005 Plant genotype and the environment interact to shape a diverse arthropod community on Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis). Ecology in press.
- Hughes, A.R., and Stachowicz, J.J. 2004. Genetic diversity enhances the resistance of a seagrass ecosystem to disturbance. PNAS 101: 8998-9001
- Wimp. G.M. 2004. Conserving plant genetic diversity for dependent animal communities. Ecology Letters 7: 776-780.
- Johnson, M.T.J., et al. Genotypic diversity in plant populations shapes arthropod community composition. In Review
- Abrams, P.A. 2000. The evolution of predator-prey interactions: theory and evidence Ann Rev Eco Syst 31:79-105
- Yoshida, T. et al. 2003. Rapid evolution drives ecological dynamics in a predator-prey system. Nature 424:303-306
- Johnson, M.T.J., and Agrawal, A.A. 2003. The ecological play of predator-prey dynamics in an evolutionary theatre. TREE 18:549-551.
- Dawkins, R. 1999 (rev ed.). The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Whitham, T.G. et al. 2003. Community and ecosystem genetics: a consequence of the extended phenotype. Ecology 84: 559-573
- Schweitzer, J.A. et al. 2004. Genetically based trait in a dominant treae affects ecosystem processes. Ecology Letters 7: 127-134.
- Fischer, D.G. et al. 2004. Ecosystem implications of genetic variation in water-use of a dominant riparian tree. Oecologia 139: 288-297.
- Neuhauser et al. 2003. Community genetics: expanding the synthesis of ecology and genetics. Ecology 84: 545-558.
- Bangert, R.K. et al. 2005. Benefits of conservation of plant genetic diversity on arthropod diversity. Conservatoin Biology in press.
- de Roode, J.C. et al. 2004. Host heterogeneity is a determinant of competitive exclusion or coexistence in genetically diverse malaria infections. Proc Roy Soc L-B