A theory in population ecology that attempts to establish whether environmental conditions favor the maximization of r (the intrinsic rate of natural increase) or of K (the carrying capacity of the environment). When populations can expand without food reserves limiting their growth, then r selection is in control. When food reserves limit population size, K selection takes over, and increase in one genotype must be at the expense of another. Whereas r selection operates in ecological situations where food reserves fluctuate drastically, and species are favored that reproduce rapidly and produce large numbers of offspring. K selection operates in populations that are close to the environmental carrying capacity, and species are favored that reproduce slowly and generate a few offspring that are well adapted to a relatively stable environment.
Subjects: Genetics and Genomics.