Population dynamics and evolutionary change are linked by the fundamental biological processes of birth and death. This means that population growth may correlate with the strength of selection, whereas evolutionary change can leave an ecological signature. We decompose population growth in an age-structured population into contributions from variation in a quantitative trait. We report that the distribution of body sizes within a population of Soay sheep can markedly influence population dynamics, accounting for up to one-fifth of observed population growth. Our results suggest that there is substantial opportunity for evolutionary dynamics to leave an ecological signature and visa versa.