Artificial selection for increased dispersal results in lower fitness

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Dispersal often covaries with other traits, and this covariation was shown to have a genetic basis. Here, we wanted to explore to what extent genetic constraints and correlational selection can explain patterns of covariation between dispersal and key life-history traits-lifespan and reproduction. A prediction from the fitness-associated dispersal hypothesis was that lower genetic quality is associated with higher dispersal propensity as driven by the benefits of genetic mixing. We wanted to contrast it with a prediction from a different model that individuals putting more emphasis on current rather than future reproduction disperse more, as they are expected to be more risk-prone and exploratory. However, if dispersal has inherent costs, this will also result in a negative genetic correlation between higher rates of dispersal and some aspects of performance. To explore this issue, we used the dioecious nematode Caenorhabditis remanei and selected for increased and decreased dispersal propensity for 10 generations, followed by five generations of relaxed selection. Dispersal propensity responded to selection, and females from high-dispersal lines dispersed more than females from low-dispersal lines. Females selected for increased dispersal propensity produced fewer offspring and were more likely to die from matricide, which is associated with a low physiological condition in Caenorhabditis nematodes. There was no evidence for differences in age-specific reproductive effort between high- and low-dispersal females. Rather, reproductive output of high-dispersal females was consistently reduced. We argue that our data provide support for the fitness-associated dispersal hypothesis.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-224
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number2
Early online date2 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


    Research areas

  • BEHAVIOR, CONSEQUENCES, Caenorhabditis, EPIPHYAS-POSTVITTANA, EVOLUTION, LIFETIME FITNESS, NATAL DISPERSAL, NEMATODE, POPULATION, QUANTITATIVE GENETIC-ANALYSIS, TRADE-OFFS, artificial selection, dispersal syndromes, fitness-associated dispersal, life-history theory

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© 2019 European Society For Evolutionary Biology. Journal of Evolutionary Biology © 2019 European Society For Evolutionary Biology.

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