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Experimental evolution of dispersal in spatiotemporally variable microcosms

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Abstract

The world is an uncertain place. Individuals’ fates vary from place to place and from time to time. Natural selection in unpredictable environments should favour individuals that hedge their bets by dispersing offspring. I confirm this basic prediction using Caenorhabditis elegans in experimental microcosms. My results agree with evolutionary models and correlations found previously between habitat stability and individual dispersal propensity in nature. However, I also find that environmental variation that triggers conditional dispersal behaviour may not impose selection on baseline dispersal rates. These findings imply that an increased rate of disturbance in natural systems has the potential to cause an evolutionary response in the life history of impacted organisms.

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