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Organisms do not live in an isolated way in the abiotic world. Rather they interact in manifold ways with organisms of the same species or other species. These interactions often put interactive selection pressures on the involved organisms. We speak of coevolution, when within such interactions – for example between species A and species B – species A puts selection pressure on species B, the organisms of species B adapt and in turn put selection pressure on species A. We can see one of the best-known examples for the result of such coevolutionary processes when we look at the impressive diversity of flowering plants and their specific pollinators.  
The interactive adaptation of flowering plants and pollinators is a mutual coevolutionary process. The result is often a symbiosis between the involved organisms. In contrast, relationships between parasite and host and relationships between predator and prey are examples for antagonistic coevolution. This kind of coevolution can culminate in a so called “evolutionary arms race”, where one antagonist continuously optimizes his defence or avoidance strategies while the other antagonist is compelled to develop more efficient infection or hunting strategies. Through these diverse interactions evolutionary change is continuously advanced.

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Teaching material


Canopé Ludwig Maximilians Universität München Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster