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Keywords:

  • Dispersal evolution;
  • dispersal kernel;
  • experimental evolution;
  • local extinctions;
  • spatial correlation

Dispersal is a central process to almost all species on earth, as it connects spatially structured populations and thereby increases population persistence. Dispersal is subject to (rapid) evolution and local patch extinctions are an important selective force in this context. In contrast to the randomly distributed local extinctions considered in most theoretical studies, habitat fragmentation or other anthropogenic interventions will lead to spatially correlated extinction patterns. Under such conditions natural selection is thought to lead to more long-distance dispersal, but this theoretical prediction has not yet been verified empirically. We test this prediction in experimental spatially structured populations of the spider mite Tetranychus urticae and supplement these empirical results with insights from an individual-based evolutionary model. We demonstrate that the spatial correlation of local extinctions changes the entire distribution of dispersal distances (dispersal kernel) and selects for overall less emigration but more long-distance dispersal.