Species coexistence within ecosystems and the stability of patterns of temporal changes in population sizes are central topics in ecological theory. In the last decade, adaptive behaviour has been proposed as a mechanism of population stabilization. In particular, widely distributed adaptive trophic behaviour (ATB), the fitness-enhancing changes in individuals' feeding-related traits due to variation in their trophic environment, may play a key role in modulating the dynamics of feeding relationships within natural communities. In this article, we review and synthesize models and results from theoretical research dealing with the consequences of ATB on the structure and dynamics of complex food webs. We discuss current approaches, point out limitations, and consider questions ripe for future research. In spite of some differences in the modelling and analytic approaches, there are points of convergence: (1) ATB promotes the complex structure of ecological networks, (2) ATB increases the stability of their dynamics, (3) ATB reverses May's negative complexity-stability relationship, and (4) ATB provides resilience and resistance of networks against perturbations. Current knowledge supports ATB as an essential ingredient for models of community dynamics, and future research that incorporates ATB will be well positioned to address questions important for basic ecological research and its applications.
© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/CNRS.