Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 299–310 | Cite as

Empirically simulated spatial sorting points at fast epigenetic changes in dispersal behaviour

  • Katrien Hilde Petra Van PetegemEmail author
  • Julien Pétillon
  • David Renault
  • Nicky Wybouw
  • Thomas Van Leeuwen
  • Robby Stoks
  • Dries Bonte
Original Paper


During range expansion, the most dispersive individuals make up the range front, and assortative mating between these dispersive phenotypes leads to increased dispersiveness (i.e. spatial sorting). The precise inheritance of dispersal, however, is to date largely unknown in many organisms, thereby hampering any progress in evaluating the adaptive potential of species during range expansion. Using the spider mite Tetranychus urticae, we therefore empirically simulated spatial sorting by means of artificial selection on a unique pre-dispersal behaviour, tightly related to emigration. To separate directionality of the response from potential drift, we mimicked a recurrent low number of founders in replicated selection regimes. Afterwards, we inferred the mode of inheritance of the pre-dispersal behaviour by performing reciprocal crosses between selected (i.e. dispersive) and non-selected (i.e. non-dispersive) mites and by screening for endosymbionts known to be associated with changes in dispersal behaviour. Despite the recurrent low number of founders, the aerial dispersal behaviour responded strongly to the imposed selection pressure. The behaviour furthermore showed a maternal inheritance, though independent of any known dispersal-related endosymbionts. Though cytoplasmic inheritance cannot fully be excluded, we attribute the observed strong and rapid, maternally influenced response in dispersal to transgenerational epigenetic effects. Consequently, we can expect fast evolutionary dynamics during range expansion in the species.


Range expansion Founder effect Tetranychus urticae Artificial selection Maternal inheritance Endosymbionts 



This project was funded by the Fund for Scientific Research - Flanders (FWO) (project G.0610.11). We also thank the Fund for Scientific Research - Flanders (FWO) for funding JP (visiting postdoctoral fellowship: FWO-project G. G0057/09 N). DB and RS were supported by BelSpo IAP Project “Speedy”. We furthermore thank the INEE-CNRS (ENVIROMICS call, project ‘ALIENS’) for funding DR. Finally, we thank Pim Edelaar, Cristina García and John Endler for inviting us and we thank two anonymous reviewers and Pim Edelaar for their useful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrien Hilde Petra Van Petegem
    • 1
    Email author
  • Julien Pétillon
    • 1
    • 2
  • David Renault
    • 3
  • Nicky Wybouw
    • 4
    • 5
  • Thomas Van Leeuwen
    • 5
  • Robby Stoks
    • 6
  • Dries Bonte
    • 1
  1. 1.Terrestrial Ecology Unit, Department of BiologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.EA 7316 Biodiversité et Gestion des TerritoiresUniversité de Rennes 1Rennes CedexFrance
  3. 3.UMR CNRS 6553 EcobioUniversité de Rennes 1Rennes CedexFrance
  4. 4.Laboratory of Agrozoology, Department of Crop ProtectionGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  5. 5.Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology, Evolution and ConservationKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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