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Open Access Research article

Dispersing away from bad genotypes: the evolution of Fitness-Associated Dispersal (FAD) in homogeneous environments

Ariel Gueijman1, Amir Ayali2, Yoav Ram1 and Lilach Hadany1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Biology and Ecology of Plants, Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel

2 Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel

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Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:125  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-125

Published: 19 June 2013

Abstract

Background

Dispersal is a major factor in ecological and evolutionary dynamics. Although empirical evidence shows that the tendency to disperse varies among individuals in many organisms, the evolution of dispersal patterns is not fully understood. Previous theoretical studies have shown that condition-dependent dispersal may evolve as a means to move to a different environment when environments are heterogeneous in space or in time. However, dispersal is also a means to genetically diversify offspring, a genetic advantage that might be particularly important when the individual fitness is low. We suggest that plasticity in dispersal, in which fit individuals are less likely to disperse (Fitness-Associated Dispersal, or FAD), can evolve due to its evolutionary advantages even when the environment is homogeneous and stable, kin competition is weak, and the cost of dispersal is high.

Results

Using stochastic simulations we show that throughout the parameter range, selection favors FAD over uniform dispersal (in which all individuals disperse with equal probability). FAD also has significant long-term effects on the mean fitness and genotypic variance of the population.

Conclusions

We show that FAD evolves under a very wide parameter range, regardless of its effects on the population mean fitness. We predict that individuals of low quality will have an increased tendency for dispersal, even when the environment is homogeneous, there is no direct competition with neighbors, and dispersal carries significant costs.

Keywords:
Phenotypic plasticity; Genetic mixing; Outcrossing; Stress-induced variation; Fitness-dependent dispersal; Condition-dependent dispersal; Partial migration; Stochastic simulations