Tracking dispersal across a patchy landscape

Submitted by editor on 2 November 2020.Get the paper!

Image 1: The common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster (Photo credit: Ken Jones)

Tracking dispersal across a patchy landscape reveals a dynamic interaction between genotype and habitat structure

Historically, as well as contemporary, dispersal remains one of the most important biological processes on our planet. Throughout history, dispersal facilitated the colonization of all kinds of environments that support life on our planet. Today, biodiversity face new challenges as climate change and habitat loss from human activities assert pressures on ecosystems. Just like in the past dispersal will, in part, be the key to how (and how fast) populations can respond to these challenges. Uncovering key features of the landscape that facilitate or impede movement among habitat patches is therefore critical to understand how changes in the landscape affect dispersal at the population-level and ultimately the distribution of species and communities over time.

In our laboratory we are interested in addressing such issues experimentally. The great advantage with conducting experiments in the lab is that you get to change specific landscape features under controlled conditions and observe how an organism changes its behaviour. In our recent paper in Oikos we describe a study where we examined how flies (Drosophila melanogaster, Image 1) colonized food patches in landscapes with different distances among patches and with different patch distributions.

Image 2: Showing two different cells that are connected via a clear passageway (photo credit: Allan Edelsparre)

Image 2 shows an example of one of our experimental landscapes. These landscapes consisted of 25 locations (cells) connected via clear tubes that provided access to adjacent locations. If a cell contained food it was treated as a food patch. The 25 locations were arranged in a 5 by 5 array and with a central location from which flies were allowed to disperse from. We used this general set up to run trials in landscapes with different inter-patch distances and with different patch distributions. This allowed us to examine the effect of each landscape feature on dispersal.


Written by: Allan Edelsparre - @aedelsparre


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