Linking the ecology and evolution of animal movement with mechanistic, individual-based models

  • Date: Dec 13, 2022
  • Time: 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Franjo Weissing
  • Franjo Weissing is Professor at the University of Groningen and leading the Theoretical Biology Group.
  • Room: Seminar room MPI-AB Bücklestrasse + Online
  • Host: Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior
  • Contact:
Linking the ecology and evolution of animal movement with mechanistic, individual-based models
Movement is key to animal ecology as many ecological processes have an explicit spatial context. This includes foraging, intra- and inter-specific interactions such as competition and predation, as well as the transmission of pathogens and animal culture. Animal movement is often included in ecological thinking, but it is usually viewed as an optimal (e.g. ideal free distribution), or stochastic process (e.g. random walks, Lévy flights). However, animals do not move at random, but in ways that are shaped by natural selection. The movement decisions of individuals can thus link long-term evolutionary history, current ecological context, and fine-scale spatial and social behaviour. This makes movement an ideal topic to investigate the interplay of ecology and evolution. Evolution does not act directly on population properties but on individual phenotypes and behaviour. Movement strategies can lead to the emergence of spatio-temporal patterns at higher levels of organisation, but in the first place, movement is an individual-level property. These considerations make it imperative to study the evolutionary ecology of movement by individual-centric approaches. I will present such an individual-based framework that incorporates both ecological and evolutionary timescales, includes reproduction and inheritance, and allows higher-level patterns to emerge from individual-level processes. By means of example case studies, I will show that evolved movement strategies can lead to quite different ecological patterns than ‘random’ or ‘optimal’ movement. I will demonstrate that the evolution of movement strategies can be very rapid, taking place on a similar timescale as ecological processes. This is partly caused by the emergence and stable coexistence of alternative movement strategies that we observe in virtually all our model studies. The high speed of adaptation is illustrated by a model that investigates the evolutionary implications of the advent of a novel pathogen: within a small number of generations, social distancing with selective interactions evolves from a situation where social information is obtained indiscriminately. Rapid evolution also changes predator-prey coevolution, resulting in intriguing spatio-temporal patterns and surprising eco-evolutionary outcomes. The models presented are mainly conceptual, aiming at general insights. I will close my talk with some remarks on how our framework is related to current approaches in movement ecology, providing a handle to test our predictions in mesocosm or field settings.

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