Ecological stoichiometry drives the evolution of soil nematode life history traits

TitleEcological stoichiometry drives the evolution of soil nematode life history traits
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsXue, X, Adhikari, BN, Ball, B, Barrett, JE, Miao, J, Perkes, A, Martin, M, Simmons, BL, Wall, DH, Adams, B
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Date Published02/2023
Keywordselemental stoichiometry, growth rate hypothesis, life history theory, molecular evolution, nematoda, rRNA

Ecological stoichiometry is a useful theoretical framework for understanding the sources and controls on nutrient availability that structure the composition and diversity of biotic communities. One such relationship is that organismal development rate is positively linked to cellular Phosphorus (P). We hypothesized that P availability, relative to other nutrients, e.g., nitrogen and carbon, would drive the evolution of traits associated with organismal growth and development. We examined the effects of P availability both in situ and in vitro, on free-living soil nematodes. We found that P-deficient environments produce predictable changes in the ecology and evolution of important life history traits. Our results identify altered rRNA gene copy number and subsequent changes in gene expression and protein synthesis as mechanisms by which P-deficiency influences these traits. These findings have important implications for explaining soil ecological and evolutionary patterns across multiple levels of organization, including the structure and functioning of organisms, populations, communities, and ecosystems.