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character displacementMerkmalsverschiebung (ger.)

  • The phenomenon that organisms of closely related species differ more from each other in a commonly inhabited area than in an area inhabited only by one of these species. (HWB)

    It is the purpose of the present paper to discuss a seldom-recognized and poorly known speciation phenomenon that we consider to be of potential major significance in animal systematics. This condition, which we have come to call “character displacement,” may be roughly described as follows. Two closely related species have overlapping ranges. In the parts of the ranges where one species occurs alone, the populations of that species are similar to the other species and may even be very difficult to distinguish from it. In the area of overlap, where the two species occur together, the populations are more divergent and easily distinguished, i.e., they "displace" one another in one or more characters. The characters involved can be morphological, ecological, behavioral, or physiological; they are assumed to be genetically based.

    Brown, W.L. & Wilson, E.O. (1956). Character displacement. Systematic Zoology 5, 49-64: 49.


    character displacement The tendency for enhanced character divergence in the sympatric populations of two species that are partly sympatric and partly allopatric in their distributions, owing to the selective effects of competition; character divergence; cf. character convergence. 

    Lincoln, R.J., Boxshall, G.A. & Clark, P.F. (1982). A Dictionary of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics: 43.