Coevolution[edit | edit source]

Coevolution is a cyclic process in which the adaptations of one organism in an ecosystem drive the adaptations of another organism. These adaptations then cause the first organism to adapt to keep up (Brockhurst & Koskella, 2013). Coevolution is very environmentally specific so you will not see it develop between generalist species (Abrams, 2006; Aslan, et. al, 2013; Becklin, 2008; Chu, 1985) though it may develop commensally. Similarly, coevolution does not account for wide-scale adaptions among groups of organisms better attributed to environmental shifts such as habitat destruction and climate change (Chu, 1985).


Example of Evolutionary Arms Race newt VS garter snake

Predator-Prey Relationships[edit | edit source]

            Vermeij (1987) described the pattern of predator-prey adaptation as the theory of escalation in which a competitive advantage given through natural selection for either predator or prey pushes for adaptation in its counterpart. This shifts the advantage and begins a new round of competitive adaptation. By nature these systems are antagonistic (Brockhurst & Koskella, 2013) since the effectiveness of one species' adaptations negatively impacts the survival of the other and are measured by the effectiveness of the prey's defense against the predator (Mougi & Iwasa, 2010). Vermeij (1994) identifies predators as the most important selective force in history.

Examples of Predator-Prey[edit | edit source]

One particularly stark example of coevolutionary predator-prey system exists between the African honey badger and the African honey bee. The African honey badger (Mellivora capensis) primarily feeds on rodents, insects and arachnids in its native environment (Kruuk, 1983). However, as one might expect form its name, the honey badger has a particular love of honey. It uses its long claws to dislodge hives form their mounted positions, cutting teeth to tear open the hives, and its thick, loose skin to ward off stings from the bees  (Churcher, 1994). In response, the African bee (Apis meliffera scutellata) developed a behavioral adaptation: massive swarming. Honey badgers, relatively immune to the stings of a bee, require a full-out attack by the hive. As the bees die post-sting, they release a pheromone calling to others to continue the attack. They will also pursue their quarry for up to a kilometer (Bourgain et al., 1998).

Examples of Parasite-Host[edit | edit source]

Parasitism typically refers to organisms which thrive at the expense of another. This is differentiated from simply predator-prey by the host facilitating one phase of the parasite's life stage. While we typically think of parasites as smaller organisms, the relationship between the koel cuckoo and species of crow and shrike in their environments. Koel are brood parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of other birds and letting the host bird hatch the eggs. The Jungle crow, an oft-parasitized species, has developed a highly aggressive behavioral pattern to prevent the koel from setting their eggs in the crow's nest. However, the koel has coevolved its own behavioral modification. The male will lure the aggressive crow out to chase it while the female koel sets the cuckoo eggs in the crow's nest (Rothstein, 1990).

Antagonistic coevolutionary work towards equilibrium, especially among specialists. If one side develops a long-term evolutionary advantage without the other adapting, the specialist predator or prey will perish (Abrams, 2006). This equilibrium is reached most effectively among predator-prey systems with equitable life cycles. When generations match up, predators and prey coevolve simultaneously. However, in parasite-host systems the life cycle of the parasite is significantly shorter. This along for a greater number of generations and time for quick adaptation. For this reason, parasite-host systems are usually out of equilibriyum and oscillate (Mougi & Iwasa, 2010).



Abrams, P. A. (2006). The Prerequisites for and Likelihood of Generalist-Specialist

            Coexistence. American Naturalist, 167(3), 329-342.

Aslan, C. E., Zavaleta, E. S., Tershy, B., & Croll, D. (2013). Mutualism Disruption Threatens Global        Plant Biodiversity: A Systematic Review. Plos ONE, 8(6), 1-11.    doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066993

Becklin, K. M. (2008). A Coevolutionary Arms Race: UNDERSTANDING PLANT-HERBIVORE             INTERACTIONS. American Biology Teacher (National Association Of Biology   Teachers), 70(5), 288-292.

Black, R. (2011, August 23). Species Count Put at 8.7 Million. BBC News. Retrieved from   

Bourgain, C., Pauti, M., Fillastre, J., Godin, M., Leroy, J., Droy, J., & ... Klotz, F. (1998). Massive             envenomation by African killer bees. Presse Medicale, 27(22), 1099-1101.

Brockhurst, M., & Koskella, B. (2013). Experimental coevolution of species interactions. Trends In          Ecology & Evolution, 28(6), 367-375.

Bronstein, J. L. (2009). The evolution of facilitation and mutualism. Journal Of Ecology, 97(6), 1160-      1170.

Chacín-Bonilla, L. (2009). Relevance of helminths in the prevention and healing of immune             diseases. Investigacion Clinica, 50(1), 1-4.

Chu, E. W. (1985). Where is the co- in coevolution?. Bioscience, 35(10), 622-625.

CHURCHER, C. S. (1994). THE VERTEBRATE FAUNA FROM THE NATUFIAN LEVEL AT           JEBEL ES-SAAÏDÉ (SAAÏDÉ II), LEBANON. Paléorient, (2), 35. doi:10.2307/41492588

Cook, L., & Saccheri, I. (2013). The peppered moth and industrial melanism: evolution of a natural          selection case study. Heredity, 110(3), 207-212.

COOKE, G. M., CHAO, N. L., & BEHEREGARAY, L. B. (2012). Natural selection in the water:          freshwater invasion and adaptation by water colour in the Amazonian pufferfish. Journal Of   Evolutionary Biology, 25(7), 1305-1320. doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2012.02514.x

Knoll, Fátima R. N., & Santos, Leandro M.. (2012). Orchid bee baits attracting bees of the genus             Megalopta (Hymenoptera, Halictidae) in Bauru region, São Paulo, Brazil: abundance, seasonality, and the importance of odors for dim-light bees. Revista Brasileira de Entomologia,          56(4),   481-488. 

Kruuk, H. H., & Mills, M. L. (1983). Notes on food and foraging of the Honey Badger Mellivora            capensis in the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park: original research. Koedoe, 41(26), 153-157.

Lee, J., Kim, T., & Choe, J. (n.d). Commensalism or mutualism: conditional outcomes in a             branchiobdellid-crayfish symbiosis. Oecologia, 159(1), 217-224.

Mougi, A., & Iwasa, Y. (2010). Evolution towards oscillation or stability in a predator-prey             system. Proceedings Of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,277(1697), 3163-3171.             doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.0691

Pokorny, T., Hannibal, M., Quezada-Euan, J. J. G., Hedenströ, m, E., Sjö, ,…Eltz, T. (2013).         Acquisition of species-specific perfume blends: influence of habitat-dependent compound            availability on odour choices of male orchid bees (Euglossa spp.). Oecologia, 172(2), 417 - 425.       doi:10.1007/s00442-013-2620-0

Rothstein, S. L. (1990). A MODEL SYSTEM FOR COEVOLUTION: AVIAN BROOD             PARASITISM. Annual Review Of Ecology & Systematics, 21481-508.

Understanding Evolution. 2013. University of California Museum of Paleontology. 22 August 2008             <>.

Vermeij, G. (1987). Evolution and Escalation: An Ecological History of Life. Princeton: Princeton            University Press.

Vermeij, G. J. (1994). THE EVOLUTIONARY INTERACTION AMONG SPECIES: Selection,             Escalation, and Coevolution. Annual Review Of Ecology & Systematics, 25219-236.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.