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Proc Biol Sci. 2009 Aug 7;276(1668):2829-36. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0454. Epub 2009 May 6.

'Heritability' of dispersal propensity in a patchy population.

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Université de Lyon, F-69000, Lyon, France.


Although dispersal is often considered to be a plastic, condition-dependent trait with low heritability, growing evidence supports medium to high levels of dispersal heritability. Obtaining unbiased estimates of dispersal heritability in natural populations nevertheless remains crucial to understand the evolution of dispersal strategies and their population consequences. Here we show that dispersal propensity (i.e. the probability of dispersal between habitat patches) displays a significant heritability in the collared flycatcher Ficedula albicollis, as estimated by within-family resemblance when accounting for environmental factors. Offspring of dispersing mothers or fathers had a higher propensity to disperse to a new habitat patch themselves. The effect of parental dispersal status was additional to that of local habitat quality, as measured by local breeding population size and success, confirming previous results about condition-dependent dispersal in this population. The estimated levels of heritability varied between 0.30+/-0.07 and 0.47+/-0.10, depending on parent-offspring comparisons made and correcting for a significant assortative mating with respect to dispersal status. Siblings also displayed a significant resemblance in dispersal propensity. These results suggest that variation in between-patch natal dispersal in the collared flycatcher is partly genetically determined, and we discuss ways to quantify this genetic basis and its implications.

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