Resource polymorphism in vertebrates is generally underappreciated as a diversifying force and is probably more common than is currently recognized. Research across diverse taxa suggest they may play important roles in population divergence and speciation. They may involve various kinds of traits, including morphological and behavioral traits and those related to life history. Many of the evolutionary, ecological, and genetic mechanisms producing and maintaining resource polymorphisms are similar among phylogenetically distinct species. Although further studies are needed, the genetic basis may be simple, in some cases under the control of a single locus, with phenotypic plasticity playing a proximate role in some taxa. Divergent selection including either directional, disruptive, or frequency-dependent selection is important in their evolution. Generally, the invasion of “open” niches or underutilized resources requiring unique trophic characters and decreased interspecific competition have promoted the evolution of resource polymorphisms. Further investigations centered on their role in speciation, especially adaptive radiation, are likely to be fruitful.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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