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J Math Biol. 2002 Aug;45(2):79-105.

Evolutionary suicide and evolution of dispersal in structured metapopulations.

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Turku Centre for Computer Science, FIN-20014 University of Turku, Finland.


We study the evolution of dispersal in a structured metapopulation model. The metapopulation consists of a large (infinite) number of local populations living in patches of habitable environment. Dispersal between patches is modelled by a disperser pool and individuals in transit between patches are exposed to a risk of mortality. Occasionally, local catastrophes eradicate a local population: all individuals in the affected patch die, yet the patch remains habitable. We prove that, in the absence of catastrophes, the strategy not to migrate is evolutionarily stable. Under a given set of environmental conditions, a metapopulation may be viable and yet selection may favor dispersal rates that drive the metapopulation to extinction. This phenomenon is known as evolutionary suicide. We show that in our model evolutionary suicide can occur for catastrophe rates that increase with decreasing local population size. Evolutionary suicide can also happen for constant catastrophe rates, if local growth within patches shows an Allee effect. We study the evolutionary bifurcation towards evolutionary suicide and show that a discontinuous transition to extinction is a necessary condition for evolutionary suicide to occur. In other words, if population size smoothly approaches zero at a boundary of viability in parameter space, this boundary is evolutionarily repelling and no suicide can occur.

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