On the evolutionary interplay between dispersal and local adaptation in heterogeneous environments

Andrew Berdahl, Colin J. Torney, Emmanuel Schertzer, Simon Asher Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Dispersal, whether in the form of a dandelion seed drifting on the breeze, or a salmon migrating upstream to breed in a nonnatal stream, transports genes between locations. At these locations, local adaptation modifies the gene frequencies so their carriers are better suited to particular conditions, be those of newly disturbed soil or a quiet river pool. Both dispersal and local adaptation are major drivers of population structure; however, in general, their respective roles are not independent and the two may often be at odds with one another evolutionarily, each one exhibiting negative feedback on the evolution of the other. Here, we investigate their joint evolution within a simple, discrete-time, metapopulation model. Depending on environmental conditions, their evolutionary interplay leads to either a monomorphic population of highly dispersing generalists or a collection of rarely dispersing, locally adapted, polymorphic sub-populations, each adapted to a particular habitat type. A critical value of environmental heterogeneity divides these two selection regimes and the nature of the transition between them is determined by the level of kin competition. When kin competition is low, at the transition we observe discontinuities, bistability, and hysteresis in the evolved strategies; however, when high, kin competition moderates the evolutionary feedback and the transition is smooth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1390-1405
Number of pages16
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Adaptive radiation
  • Dimorphic populations
  • Evolutionary branching
  • Joint evolution
  • Meta-population
  • Specialization


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