Modelling the genetics and demography of step cline formation: gastropod populations preyed on by experimentally introduced crabs


E. G. Boulding, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1.
Tel.: +1 519 824 4120; ext: 54961; fax: +1 519 767 1656;


Whether a prey population goes extinct or adapts in response to an invading predator may depend on the number of contiguous populations that experience increased predation. We created invaded snail populations by building shelters for predatory shore crabs on a rocky intertidal bench. The crabs preyed selectively on thin-shelled snails tethered next to the shelters but did not prey on those more than 2 m away. This caused strong directional selection for increased shell thickness in populations close to the shelters but did not change selection in those farther away. The field experiment was used to parameterize a new individual-based quantitative genetic model that included demography. In the model a detectable step cline in shell thickness evolved rapidly even though the region of increased predation was shorter than Slatkin's characteristic length. The cline's step size in the model was similar to that measured in the field 10 years after the experiment began.