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Evolution. 2005 Oct;59(10):2083-96.

Disturbance induces the contrasting evolution of reinforcement and dispersiveness in directed and random movers.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


Spatial models commonly assume that dispersal rates are constant across individuals and environments and that movement directions are unbiased. These random-movement assumptions are inadequate to capture the range of dispersal behaviors revealed in diverse case studies. We examine an alternative assumption of directed movement, in which dispersal is a conditional and directional response by individuals to varying environmental conditions. Specifically, we assume individuals bias their movements to climb spatial fitness gradients. We compare the consequences of random and directed movement for local adaptation, the evolution of dispersal, and the reinforcement process. The implications of each movement strategy depend on the nature of environmental disturbance, and we examine the outcomes for undisturbed environments and with uncorrelated and autocorrelated disturbances. Both movement strategies offer advantages over sedentary life histories by allowing colonization of suitable habitats. However, random movement eventually becomes costly in stable environments because it inhibits local adaptation. In contrast, directed movement accelerates local adaptation. In disturbed environments, random movement offers bet-spreading advantages by distributing offspring across habitats. Despite being a more targeted strategy, an intermediate amount of directed movement provides similar bet-spreading benefits. These fitness consequences have implications for the evolution of dispersal. Dispersiveness is lost by random movers in undisturbed environments, is maintained in polymorphism with infrequent disturbances, and evolves when disturbances are uncorrelated. Directed movement becomes selectively neutral in the absence of disturbance, evolves when disturbances are autocorrelated, and is maintained in polymorphism with uncorrelated disturbances. Disturbance also determines the outcome of the reinforcement process for each strategy. For example, directed movers show no progress toward reinforcement in undisturbed environments, evolve random mating with uncorrelated disturbances, and can evolve assortative mating in infrequently disturbed environments.

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