Models of Dispersal Evolution Highlight Several Important Issues in Evolutionary and Ecological Modeling

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Previous results showing that lack of information on local population density leads to higher emigration probabilities in unpredictable environments but to lower emigration probabilities in constant or highly predictable scenarios have recently been challenged by Poethke et al. By reimplementing both our model and that of Poethke and colleagues, we demonstrate that our original results indeed hold to the presented critiques and do not contradict previous findings. The comment by Poethke and colleagues does, however, present potentially intriguing results suggesting that negative density-dependent dispersal evolves under white noise for some model formulations. Here, through intermodel comparison, we seek to better understand the source of the differences in results obtained in our study and theirs. We conclude that the apparent negative density dependence reported by Poethke et al. is effectively density independence and that the shape of the reaction norm they obtain is a model artefact. Further, this response provides an opportunity to elaborate on some important issues in evolutionary and ecological modeling regarding (i) the importance of carefully considering different models' assumptions in comparisons among models, (ii) the need to consider the role of stochasticity and uncertainty when presenting and interpreting results from stochastic individual-based models, (iii) the adequate choice of the underlying ecological model that creates the selective pressures determining the evolution of behavioral reaction norms, and (iv) the appropriate choice of mutation models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-150
Number of pages8
JournalThe American Naturalist
Issue number1
Early online date19 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • informed dispersal
  • reaction norm evolution
  • intermodel comparison
  • mutation


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