Understanding the causes of larval dispersal is a major goal of marine ecology, yet most research focuses on proximate causes. Here we ask how ultimate, evolutionary causes affect dispersal. Building on Hamilton and May’s classic 1977 article “Dispersal in Stable Habitats,” we develop analytic and simulation models for the evolution of dispersal kernels in spatially structured habitats. First, we investigate dispersal in a world without edges and find that most offspring disperse as far as possible, opposite the pattern of empirical data. Adding edges to our model world leads to nearly all offspring dispersing short distances, again a mismatch with empirical data. Adding resource heterogeneity improves our results: most offspring disperse short distances with some dispersing longer distances. Finally, we simulate dispersal evolution in a real seascape in Belize and find that the simulated dispersal kernel and an empirical dispersal kernel from that seascape both have the same shape, with a high level of short-distance dispersal and a low level of long-distance dispersal. The novel contributions of this work are to provide a spatially explicit analytic extension of Hamilton and May’s 1977 work, to demonstrate that our spatially explicit simulations and analytic models provide equivalent results, and to use simulation approaches to investigate the evolution of dispersal kernel shape in spatially complex habitats. Our model could be modified in various ways to investigate dispersal evolution in other species and seascapes, providing new insights into patterns of marine larval dispersal.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank S. Levin, M. Neubert, S. Proulx, L. Sullivan, R. Warner, and several anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. This work was carried out in part using computing resources at the University of Minnesota Supercomputing Institute. The project was supported by a start-up award from the University of Minnesota to A.K.S. and a National Science Foundation award (OCE-1260424) to P.M.B. and colleagues; C.C.D. was supported by the Weston Howland Junior Postdoctoral Scholarship from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
- Biological oceanography
- Dispersal kernel
- Evolutionarily stable strategy
- Larval dispersal
- Marine ecology
- Population connectivity
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article
- Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
- Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.