The concept of r-strategists and ^-strategists lies at the interface between ecology and evolution. It was developed in the 1960s and 1970s mainly by three US-American scientists Robert H. MacArthur (1930-72), Edward O. Wilson (1929-), and Eric R. Pianka (1939-). The concept was especially important in the 1970s. One short paper by Pianka from 1970 titled 'On r- and K-selection' has been cited more than 1200 times according to the ISI Web of Science. Although the concept as a whole is not seen as accurate anymore today, parts of it still are.

In this article, we outline the historical development of the r/K concept, followed by its problems as seen today. We then describe its aspects that are still in use, namely the observation that life histories show patterns within and among species and the idea that selection regimes vary with population density.

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