Ideal free distribution of fixed dispersal phenotypes in a wing dimorphic beetle in heterogeneous landscapes

Frederik Hendrickx*, Stephen C. F. Palmer, Justin M. J. Travis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


According to the ideal free distribution (IFD) theory, individuals that are able to perceive the quality of different patches in a landscape and disperse freely are expected to redistribute themselves proportionally to the carrying capacities of heterogeneous patches. Here, we argue that, when dispersal is unconditional and genetically fixed, a coalition of sedentary and dispersing phenotypes can attain an IFD under spatiotemporally uncorrelated variation in fitness. This not only leads to a stable polymorphism of both dispersal phenotypes, but also implies that the number of dispersing individuals should on average be equal among patches and determined by the carrying capacity of the smallest local populations in the landscape. Differences in carrying capacity among patches are thus only reflected by changes in the number of sedentary individuals. Individual-based simulations show that this mechanism can be generalized over a wide range of spatiotemporal conditions and dispersal strategies. Moreover, these expectations are in strong agreement with empirical data on the density of both dispersal phenotypes of the wing dimorphic ground beetle Pterostichus vernalis within and among 10 different landscapes. Hence, for the first time, these results demonstrate that this mechanism serves as a plausible alternative to the competition-colonization model to explain the spatial distribution of fixed dispersal phenotypes in heterogeneous landscapes. Understanding of the frequency distributions of individuals expressing discrete dispersal morphs moreover improves our predictive and management capabilities for a broad range of species, for which we currently typically rely on using mean dispersal rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2487-2497
Number of pages11
Issue number11
Early online date1 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding was received from the Energy, Environment and Sustainable development Programme (FP5) of the European Commission (contract number EVK2-CT-2000-00082) and Belgian Science Policy (MO/36/025) (to F. Hendrickx). This work was partly conducted within the framework of the Interuniversity Attraction Poles programme IAP (SPEEDY),Belgian Science Policy (to F. Hendrick x and J. M. J.Travis). S. C. F. Palmer and J. M. J. Travis were supported by NERC grant NE/F021402/1. Sampling was conducted by within the framework of ‘‘Greenveins’’ (EVK2-CT-2000-00082)by Marjan Speelmans (Belgium), Regula Billeter (Switzerland),and Jolanda Dirksen (The Netherlands). Bjorn Tytgat performed part of the wing measurements, and Mike Beattie assisted with development of the model


  • carabid beetle
  • density dependence
  • dispersal evolution
  • dispersal polymorphism
  • ideal free distribution


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