Prospecting and informed dispersal: Understanding and predicting their joint eco-evolutionary dynamics

Aurore Ponchon* (Corresponding Author), Alice Scarpa, Greta Bocedi, Stephen C F Palmer, Justin M J Travis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


The ability of individuals to leave a current breeding area and select a future one is important, because such decisions can have multiple consequences on individual fitness, but also on metapopulation dynamics, structure and long-term persistence through non-random dispersal patterns. In the wild, many colonial and territorial animal species display informed dispersal strategies, where individuals use information, such as conspecific breeding success gathered during prospecting, to decide whether and where to disperse. Understanding informed dispersal strategies is essential for relating individual behaviour to subsequent movements and then determining how emigration and settlement decisions affect individual fitness and demography. Although numerous theoretical studies have explored the eco-evolutionary dynamics of dispersal, very few have integrated prospecting and public information use in both emigration and settlement phases. Here, we present an individual-based modelling approach that fills this gap, and then illustrate its potential through two model examples. The first, which allows only prospecting to evolve, demonstrates that selection always favours informed dispersal based on a low number of prospected patches, except when individuals fail to discriminate better patches from worse ones. The second, which allows the concomitant evolution of both emigration probability and prospecting, shows the same prospecting strategy evolving. However, a plastic emigration strategy evolves, where individuals that breed successfully are always philopatric, while failed breeders are more likely to emigrate, especially when the dispersal decision is based on public information. Embedding information use and prospecting behaviour in eco-evolutionary models will provide new fundamental understanding of informed dispersal and its consequences for spatial population dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15289-15302
Number of pages14
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number21
Early online date18 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

AP was funded by a European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 753420 (EcoEvoProspectS project). JMJT and AS were funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, project grant BB/S507349/1.

Data Availability Statement

The source code and output files are freely accessible on the GitHub repository and are deposited on Zenodo (


  • breeding failure
  • breeding habitat selection
  • conspecific breeding success
  • environmental changes
  • population dynamics
  • social information


Dive into the research topics of 'Prospecting and informed dispersal: Understanding and predicting their joint eco-evolutionary dynamics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this