• allozymes;
  • dispersal;
  • FST;
  • lentic habitats;
  • lotic habitats;
  • persistence


A basic challenge in evolutionary biology is to establish links between ecology and evolution of species. One important link is the habitat template. It has been hypothesized, that the spatial and temporal settings of a habitat strongly influence the evolution of species dispersal propensity. Here, we evaluate the importance of the habitat type on genetic population differentiation of species using freshwater habitats as a model system. Freshwater habitats are either lentic (standing) or lotic (running). On average, lotic habitats are more stable and predictable over space and time than lentic habitats. Therefore, lentic habitats should favour the evolution of higher dispersal propensity which ensures population survival of lentic species. To test for such a relationship, we used extensive data on species’ genetic population differentiation of lentic and lotic freshwater invertebrates retrieved from published allozyme studies. Overall, we analysed more than 150 species from all over the world. Controlling for several experimental, biological and geographical confounding effects, we always found that lentic invertebrates exhibit, on average, lower genetic population differentiation than lotic species. This pattern was consistent across insects, crustaceans and molluscs. Our results imply fundamental differences in genetic population differentiation among species adapted to either lentic or lotic habitats. We propose that such differences should occur in a number of other habitat types that differ in spatio-temporal stability. Furthermore, our results highlight the important role of lotic habitats as reservoirs for evolutionary processes and the potential for rapid speciation.