Variation in dispersal mortality and dispersal propensity among individuals: the effects of age, sex and resource availability


Correspondence author. E-mail:


1. Dispersal of individuals between habitat patches depends on both the propensity to emigrate from a patch and the ability to survive inter-patch movement. Environmental factors and individual characteristics have been shown to influence dispersal rates but separating the effects of emigration and dispersal mortality on dispersal can often be difficult. In this study, we use a soil mite laboratory system to investigate factors affecting emigration and dispersal mortality.

2. We tested the movement of different age groups in two-patch systems with different inter-patch distances. Differences in immigration among age groups were primarily driven by differences in emigration but dispersal mortality was greater for some groups. Immigration declined with increasing inter-patch distance, which was due to increasing dispersal mortality and decreasing emigration.

3. In a second experiment, we compared the dispersal of recently matured males and females and tested the impact of food availability during the developmental period on their dispersal. Dispersal was found to be male biased but there was no significant sex bias in dispersal mortality. There was some evidence that food availability could affect emigration and dispersal mortality.

4. These results demonstrate that both emigration and dispersal mortality can be affected by factors such as individual age and resource availability. Understanding these effects is likely to be important for predicting the fitness costs and population consequences of dispersal.