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Nat Methods. 2012 Jul 15;9(8):828-33. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.2104.

The Metatron: an experimental system to study dispersal and metaecosystems for terrestrial organisms.

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Station d'Ecologie Expérimentale du CNRS à Moulis, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, USR 2936, Moulis, France.


Dispersal of organisms generates gene flow between populations. Identifying factors that influence dispersal will help predict how species will cope with rapid environmental change. We developed an innovative infrastructure, the Metatron, composed of 48 interconnected patches, designed for the study of terrestrial organism movement as a model for dispersal. Corridors between patches can be flexibly open or closed. Temperature, humidity and illuminance can be independently controlled within each patch. The modularity and adaptability of the Metatron provide the opportunity for robust experimental design for the study of 'meta-systems'. We describe a pilot experiment on populations of the butterfly Pieris brassicae and the lizard Zootoca vivipara in the Metatron. Both species survived and showed both disperser and resident phenotypes. The Metatron offers the opportunity to test theoretical models in spatial ecology.

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