Gene Networks and Metacommunities: Dispersal Differences Can Override Adaptive Advantage




Malcom, Jacob W.

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Public Library of Science


Dispersal is an important mechanism contributing to both ecological and evolutionary dynamics. In metapopulation and metacommunity ecology, dispersal enables new patches to be colonized; in evolution, dispersal counter-acts local selection, leading to regional homogenization. Here, I consider a three-patch metacommunity in which two species, each with a limiting quantitative trait underlain by gene networks of 16 to 256 genes, compete with one another and disperse among patches. Incorporating dispersal among heterogeneous patches introduces a tradeoff not observed in single-patch simulations: if the difference between gene network size of the two species is greater than the difference in dispersal ability (e.g., if the ratio of network sizes is larger than the ratio of dispersal abilities), then genetic architecture drives community outcome. However, if the difference in dispersal abilities is greater than gene network differences, then any adaptive advantages afforded by genetic architecture are over-ridden by dispersal. Thus, in addition to the selective pressures imposed by competition that shape the genetic architecture of quantitative traits, dispersal among patches creates an escape that may further alter the effects of different genetic architectures. These results provide a theoretical expectation for what we may observe as the field of ecological genomics develops.


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Malcom JW (2011) Gene Networks and Metacommunities: Dispersal Differences Can Override Adaptive Advantage. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21541. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021541