• Adaptation;
  • environmental variation;
  • evolution;
  • local adaptation;
  • natural selection;
  • selection mosaic;
  • sexual selection;
  • spatial variation


Local adaptation, adaptive population divergence and speciation are often expected to result from populations evolving in response to spatial variation in selection. Yet, we lack a comprehensive understanding of the major features that characterise the spatial patterns of selection, namely the extent of variation among populations in the strength and direction of selection. Here, we analyse a data set of spatially replicated studies of directional phenotypic selection from natural populations. The data set includes 60 studies, consisting of 3937 estimates of selection across an average of five populations. We performed meta-analyses to explore features characterising spatial variation in directional selection. We found that selection tends to vary mainly in strength and less in direction among populations. Although differences in the direction of selection occur among populations they do so where selection is often weakest, which may limit the potential for ongoing adaptive population divergence. Overall, we also found that spatial variation in selection appears comparable to temporal (annual) variation in selection within populations; however, several deficiencies in available data currently complicate this comparison. We discuss future research needs to further advance our understanding of spatial variation in selection.