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Habitat Choice and Temporal Variation Alter the Balance between Adaptation by Genetic Differentiation, a Jack-of-All-Trades Strategy, and Phenotypic Plasticity.

Abstract

Confronted with variable environments, species adapt in several ways, including genetic differentiation, a jack-of-all-trades strategy, or phenotypic plasticity. Adaptive habitat choice favors genetic differentiation and local adaptation over a generalist, jack-of-all-trades strategy. Models predict that, absent plasticity costs, variable environments generally favor phenotypic plasticity over genetic differentiation and being a jack-of-all-trades generalist. It is unknown how habitat choice might affect the evolution of plasticity. Using an individual-based simulation model, I explored the interaction of choice and plasticity. With only spatial variation, habitat choice promotes genetic differentiation over a jack-of-all-trades strategy or phenotypic plasticity. In the absence of plasticity, temporal variation favors a jack-of-all-trades strategy over choice-mediated genetic differentiation; when plasticity is an option, it is favored. This occurs because habitat choice creates a feedback between genetic differentiation and dispersal rates. As demes become better adapted to their local environments, the effective dispersal rate decreases, because more individuals have very high fitness and so choose not to disperse, reinforcing local stabilizing selection and negating selection for plasticity. Temporal variation breaks that feedback. These results point to a potential data paradox: systems with habitat choice may have the lowest actual movement rates. The potential for adaptive habitat choice may be very common, but its existence may reduce observed dispersal rates enough that we do not recognize systems where it may be present, warranting further exploration of likely systems.

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