Long-term evolution of quantitative traits is classically and usefully described as the directional change in phenotype due to the recurrent fixation of new mutations. A formal justification for such continual evolution ultimately relies on the "invasion implies substitution"-principle. Here, whenever a mutant allele causing a small phenotypic change can successfully invade a population, the ancestral (or wild-type) allele will be replaced, whereby fostering gradual phenotypic change if the process is repeated. It has been argued that this principle holds in a broad range of situations, including spatially and demographically structured populations experiencing frequency- and density-dependent selection under demographic and environmental fluctuations. However, prior studies have not been able to account for all aspects of population structure, leaving unsettled the conditions under which the "invasion implies substitution"-principle really holds. In this paper, we start by laying out a program to explore and clarify the generality of the "invasion implies substitution"-principle. Particular focus is given on finding an explicit and functionally constant representation of the selection gradient on a quantitative trait. Using geometric singular perturbation methods, we then show that the "invasion implies substitution"-principle generalizes to well-mixed and scalar-valued polymorphic multispecies ecological communities that are structured into finitely many demographic (or physiological) classes. The selection gradient is shown to be constant over the evolutionary timescale and that it depends only on the resident phenotype, individual growth-rates, population steady states and reproductive values, all of which are calculated from the resident dynamics. Our work contributes to the theoretical foundations of evolutionary ecology.
Keywords: Evolutionary ecology; Invasion implies substitution; Selection gradient; Structured populations.
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