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Keywords:

  • Asexual populations;
  • Allee effects;
  • disruptive selection;
  • parapatry;
  • pattern formation;
  • quantitative characters

We have analyzed the evolution of a quantitative trait in populations that are spatially extended along an environmental gradient, with gene flow between nearby locations. In the absence of competition, there is stabilizing selection toward a locally best-adapted trait that changes gradually along the gradient. According to traditional ideas, gradual spatial variation in environmental conditions is expected to lead to gradual variation in the evolved trait. A contrasting possibility is that the trait distribution instead breaks up into discrete clusters. Doebeli and Dieckmann (2003) argued that competition acting locally in trait space and geographical space can promote such clustering. We have investigated this possibility using deterministic population dynamics for asexual populations, analyzing our model numerically and through an analytical approximation. We examined how the evolution of clusters is affected by the shape of competition kernels, by the presence of Allee effects, and by the strength of gene flow along the gradient. For certain parameter ranges clustering was a robust outcome, and for other ranges there was no clustering. Our analysis shows that the shape of competition kernels is important for clustering: the sign structure of the Fourier transform of a competition kernel determines whether the kernel promotes clustering. Also, we found that Allee effects promote clustering, whereas gene flow can have a counteracting influence. In line with earlier findings, we could demonstrate that phenotypic clustering was favored by gradients of intermediate slope.