The effects of social interactions on dispersal in an insect

Dispersal is the movement of organisms across space, which has important implications for ecological and evolutionary processes. Previous studies have demonstrated that the probability of dispersal depends on several phenotypic traits, including body condition. One hypothesis to explain the relationship between body condition and dispersal is the “ideal despotic distribution hypothesis”, which states that subordinate individuals will be forced to disperse out of high quality habitat patches by dominant individuals. However, no previous study has conducted a rigorous test of whether this hypothesis applies to dispersal behaviour. In this study, I will empirically test the ideal despotic distribution hypothesis using backswimmers (Notonecta undulata), flight-capable, semi-aquatic insects. I predict that dominant individuals will force subordinate individuals to disperse when habitat quality is high, but that dominant individuals will disperse when habitat quality is low.

Principal Investigator: Shannon McCauley

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