An evolutionary process that assembles phenotypes through space rather than time

School of Biological Sciences A08, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 03/2011; 108(14):5708-11. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1018989108
Source: PubMed


In classical evolutionary theory, traits evolve because they facilitate organismal survival and/or reproduction. We discuss a different type of evolutionary mechanism that relies upon differential dispersal. Traits that enhance rates of dispersal inevitably accumulate at expanding range edges, and assortative mating between fast-dispersing individuals at the invasion front results in an evolutionary increase in dispersal rates in successive generations. This cumulative process (which we dub "spatial sorting") generates novel phenotypes that are adept at rapid dispersal, irrespective of how the underlying genes affect an organism's survival or its reproductive success. Although the concept is not original with us, its revolutionary implications for evolutionary theory have been overlooked. A range of biological phenomena (e.g., acceleration of invasion fronts, insular flightlessness, preadaptation) may have evolved via spatial sorting as well as (or rather than) by natural selection, and this evolutionary mechanism warrants further study.

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    • "dispersal, resulting in a population composed of a subsample of the phenotypes in the source habitats (Duckworth and Badyaev 2007; Clobert et al. 2009; Fogarty et al. 2011; Shine et al. 2011). For instance, newly established isolated populations of the Glanville fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia) showed higher frequency of an allele related to a high flight metabolic rate (Haag et al. 2005). "
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    ABSTRACT: Spatial heterogeneity in the distribution of phenotypes among populations is of major importance for species evolution and ecosystem functioning. Dispersal has long been assumed to homogenise populations in structured landscapes by generating mal-adapted gene flows, making spatial heterogeneity of phenotypes traditionally considered resulting from local adaptation or plasticity. However, there is accumulating evidence that individuals, instead of dispersing randomly in the landscapes, adjust their dispersal decisions according to their phenotype and the environmental conditions. Specifically, individuals might move in the landscape to find and settle in the environmental conditions that best match their phenotype, therefore maximizing their fitness, a hypothesis named habitat matching. Although habitat matching and associated non-random gene flows can produce spatial phenotypic heterogeneity, their potential consequences for metapopulation and metacommunity functioning are still poorly understood. Here, we discuss evidence for intra and interspecific drivers of habitat matching, and highlight the potential consequences of this process for metapopulation and metacommunity functioning. We conclude that habitat matching might deeply affect the eco-evolutionary dynamics of meta-systems, pointing out the need for further empirical and theoretical research on its incidence and implications for species and communities evolution under environmental changes.
    Evolutionary Ecology 11/2015; 29:851-871. DOI:10.1007/s10682-015-9776-5 · 2.52 Impact Factor
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    • "In addition, spatial sorting (Shine et al., 2011) may favor faster growth rates, leading to greater long-distance dispersal (Phillips, 2009). Lonicera japonica can flower at any node, and so flower production increases with size. "
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    ABSTRACT: The prediction of invasion patterns may require an understanding of intraspecific differentiation in invasive species and its interaction with climate change. We compare Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) plants from the core (100-150 yr old) and northern margin (< 65 yr old) of their North American invaded range to determine whether evolution during invasion increases the probability of future expansion. Plants from populations in the core and margin were compared in two sites beyond the northern range edge to assess their potential to invade novel areas. Data were compared with previous work to assess the effect of latitudinal climate on L. japonica spread. Winter survival in current climates was modeled and projected for future climates to predict future spread. Margin plants were larger and had 60% greater survival than core plants at sites beyond the northern range edge. Overall, winter survival decreased with increasing latitude and decreasing temperature, and was greater in margin plants than core plants. Models suggested that greater winter tolerance in margin populations has increased L. japonica's northward spread by 76 km, and that this survival advantage will persist under future climates. These results demonstrate that evolution during invasion may increase spread beyond predictions using increasing global temperatures alone.
    New Phytologist 10/2015; DOI:10.1111/nph.13702 · 7.67 Impact Factor
    • "competition with conspecifics is low, but are less successful when placed in competition with conspecifics (Burton et al. 2010; Shine et al. 2011). These shifts in dispersal are increasingly observed in invasions, with examples ranging from cane toads, to birds, to damselflies (Phillips & Suarez 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Anthropogenic threats often impose strong selection on affected populations, causing rapid evolutionary responses. Unfortunately, these adaptive responses are rarely harnessed for conservation. Here, we suggest that conservation managers should pay close attention to adaptive processes and geographic variation, with an eye to using them for conservation goals. Translocating pre-adapted individuals into recipient populations is currently considered a potentially important management tool in the face of climate change. Here we point out that targeted gene flow could have much broader application in conservation, with uses ranging from the management of invasive species and their impacts to controlling the impact and virulence of pathogens. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Conservation Biology 08/2015; DOI:10.1111/cobi.12623 · 4.17 Impact Factor
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