The principle of competitive exclusion states that in a population of reproductive units regulated by a single common factor all varieties but the one whose growth rate is highest at the extremal value of that factor will be excluded. This general pessimization rule has received several formulations since Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’, from Gause’s principle through K-selection to the P*-rule. Actual field and lab cases of competitive exclusion illustrate its validity and empirical value. Even though allelic fitness in diploid populations is inherently frequency dependent, usually directional (positive or negative) selection acts on alleles leading to competitive exclusion, the speed of which depends on their relative fitness (selection coefficient). In fluctuating environments the bet-hedging strategy is selected for. Modelling the spatial dynamics of an allele and invasion dynamics of a species is also similar. The chapter closes with an inventory of typical misconceptions of competition.
Keywords: Gause’s principle, selection coefficient, relative fitness, apparent competition, resource competition, K-selection, competitive exclusion, phenotypic selection, invasion dynamics, bet-hedging
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