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Am Nat. 2008 Jul;172 Suppl 1:S4-17. doi: 10.1086/588289.

Adaptive dispersal strategies and the dynamics of a range expansion.

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Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.


In species undergoing range expansion, newly established populations are often more dispersive than older populations. Because dispersal phenotypes are complex and often costly, it is unclear how highly dispersive phenotypes are maintained in a species to enable their rapid expression during periods of range expansion. Here I test the idea that metapopulation dynamics of local extinction and recolonization maintain distinct dispersal strategies outside the context of range expansion. Western bluebirds display distinct dispersal phenotypes where aggressive males are more dispersive than nonaggressive males, resulting in highly aggressive populations at the edge of their expanding range. I experimentally created new habitat interior to the range edge to show that, as on the range front, it was colonized solely by aggressive males. Moreover, fitness consequences of aggression depended on population age: aggressive males had high fitness when colonizing new populations, while nonaggressive males performed best in an older population. These results suggest that distinct dispersal strategies were maintained before range expansion as an adaptation for the continual recolonization of new habitat. These results emphasize similarities between range expansion and metapopulation dynamics and suggest that preexisting adaptive dispersal strategies may explain rapid changes in dispersal phenotypes during range expansion.

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