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Between a rock and a hard place: adaptive sensing and site-specific dispersal
  • Bethany Nichols,
  • Gerhard Leubner-Metzger,
  • Vincent A A Jansen
Bethany Nichols
Royal Holloway University of London
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Gerhard Leubner-Metzger
Royal Holloway University of London
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Vincent A A Jansen
Royal Holloway, University of London
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Peer review status:ACCEPTED

09 Mar 2020Submitted to Ecology Letters
06 Apr 2020Submission Checks Completed
06 Apr 2020Assigned to Editor
07 Apr 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
28 Apr 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
28 Apr 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
09 May 20201st Revision Received
12 May 2020Submission Checks Completed
12 May 2020Assigned to Editor
12 May 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
12 May 2020Editorial Decision: Accept

Abstract

Environmental variability can lead to dispersal: why stay put if it is better elsewhere? Without clues about local conditions, the optimal strategy is often to disperse a set fraction of offspring. Many habitats contain environmentally differing sub-habitats. Is it adaptive for individuals to sense in which sub-habitat they find themselves, using environmental clues, and respond plastically by altering the dispersal rates? This appears to be done by some plants which produce dimorphic seeds with differential dispersal properties in response to ambient temperature. Here we develop a mathematical model to show, that in highly variable environments, not only does sensing promote plasticity of dispersal morph ratio, but individuals who can sense their sub-habitat and respond in this way have an adaptive advantage over those who cannot. With a rise in environmental variability due to climate change, our understanding of how natural populations persist and respond to changes has become crucially important.