Historical contingency, such as the order of species arrival, can modify competitive outcomes via niche modification or preemption. However how these mechanisms ultimately modify stabilising niche and average fitness differences remains largely unknown. By experimentally assembling two congeneric spider mite species feeding on tomato plants during two generations, we show that order of arrival interacts with species’ competitive ability to determine competitive outcomes. Contrary to expectations, we did not observe that order of arrival cause priority effects. In fact, coexistence was predicted when the inferior competitor (Tetranychus urticae) arrived first. In that case, T. urticae colonized the preferred feeding stratum (leaves) of T. evansi leading to spatial niche preemption, which equalized fitness but also increased niche differences, driving community assembly to a close-to-neutrality scenario. Our study demonstrates how the spatial context of competitive interactions interact with species competitive ability to influence the effect of order of arrival on species coexistence.
A key step in understanding the genetic basis of different evolutionary outcomes (e.g., adaptation) is to determine the roles played by different mutation types. To do this we must simultaneously consider different mutation types in an evolutionary framework. Here we propose a research framework that directly utilizes the most important characteristics of mutations, their population genetic effects, to determine their relative evolutionary significance. We review known population genetic effects of different mutation types and show how these may be connected to different evolutionary outcomes. We provide examples of how to implement this framework and pinpoint areas where more data, theory and synthesis are needed. Linking experimental and theoretical approaches to examine different mutation types simultaneously is a critical step towards understanding their evolutionary significance.