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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e54697. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054697. Epub 2013 Feb 12.

Dynamics of adaptation in spatially heterogeneous metapopulations.

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  • 1BIOlogie et GEstion des Risques en Agriculture Group-UR BIOGER-CPP, Plant Health and Environment Division, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Thiverval-Grignon, France.


The selection pressure experienced by organisms often varies across the species range. It is hence crucial to characterise the link between environmental spatial heterogeneity and the adaptive dynamics of species or populations. We address this issue by studying the phenotypic evolution of a spatial metapopulation using an adaptive dynamics approach. The singular strategy is found to be the mean of the optimal phenotypes in each habitat with larger weights for habitats present in large and well connected patches. The presence of spatial clusters of habitats in the metapopulation is found to facilitate specialisation and to increase both the level of adaptation and the evolutionary speed of the population when dispersal is limited. By showing that spatial structures are crucial in determining the specialisation level and the evolutionary speed of a population, our results give insight into the influence of spatial heterogeneity on the niche breadth of species.

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