Dispersal syndromes in challenging environments: A cross-species experiment

Julien Cote, Maxime Dahirel, Nicolas Schtickzelle, Florian Altermatt, Armelle Ansart, Simon Blanchet, Alexis S. Chaine, Frederik De Laender, Jonathan De Raedt, Bart Haegeman, Staffan Jacob, Oliver Kaltz, Estelle Laurent, Chelsea J. Little, Luc Madec, Florent Manzi, Stefano Masier, Felix Pellerin, Frank Pennekamp, Lieven TherryAlexandre Vong, Laurane Winandy, Dries Bonte, Emanuel A. Fronhofer, Delphine Legrand

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Dispersal is a central biological process tightly integrated into life-histories, morphology, physiology and behaviour. Such associations, or syndromes, are anticipated to impact the eco-evolutionary dynamics of spatially structured populations, and cascade into ecosystem processes. As for dispersal on its own, these syndromes are likely neither fixed nor random, but conditional on the experienced environment. We experimentally studied how dispersal propensity varies with individuals' phenotype and local environmental harshness using 15 species ranging from protists to vertebrates. We reveal a general phenotypic dispersal syndrome across studied species, with dispersers being larger, more active and having a marked locomotion-oriented morphology and a strengthening of the link between dispersal and some phenotypic traits with environmental harshness. Our proof-of-concept metacommunity model further reveals cascading effects of context-dependent syndromes on the local and regional organisation of functional diversity. Our study opens new avenues to advance our understanding of the functioning of spatially structured populations, communities and ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2675-2687
Number of pages13
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • context-dependent dispersal
  • dispersal strategy
  • distributed experiment
  • predation risk
  • resource limitation


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