Unravelling the causes and consequences of dispersal syndromes in a wild passerine

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Evidence accumulates that dispersal is correlated with individual behavioural phenotype (dispersal syndrome). The evolutionary causes and consequences of such covariation depend on the degree of plasticity versus inheritance of the traits, which requires challenging experiments to implement in mobile organisms. Here, we combine a forced dispersal experiment, natural colonization and longitudinal data to establish if dispersal and aggression levels are integrated and to test their adaptive nature in pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca). We found that (forced) dispersers behaved more aggressively in their first breeding year after dispersal and decreased their aggression in following years. Strength of dispersal syndrome and direction of fecundity selection on aggression in newly colonized areas varied between years. We propose that the net benefits of aggression for dispersers increase under harsh conditions (e.g. low food abundance). This hypothesis now warrants further testing. Overall, this study provides unprecedented experimental evidence that dispersal syndromes can be remodelled via adaptive plasticity depending on the individuals' local breeding experience and/or year-specific ecological conditions. It highlights the importance of individual behavioural variation in population dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20220068
Number of pages9
JournalProc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci
Issue number1974
Early online date4-May-2022
Publication statusPublished - 11-May-2022


  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Phenotype
  • Population Dynamics
  • Songbirds
  • Syndrome

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