Evolutionary Implications of Habitat Choice

Abstract

There is a growing realisation that habitat choice can have profound consequences for the processes of adaptation and speciation. Habitat choice may be a rapid and effective route by which individual and population fitness are increased, potentially playing a major role in adaptive evolution that has historically been solely attributed to natural selection. Recent research indicates that there may be complex interactions between habitat selection and other processes (i.e. natural selection, phenotypic plasticity) during adaptive evolution. Likewise, the use of alternative habitats by diverging lineages appears to be a major barrier to gene flow in nature, suggesting that habitat choice also plays a major role in the diversification of life. Although the available evidence is tantalising, much remains to be known about the true extent of habitat choice's role in the evolutionary process and the mechanisms underlying its evolutionary consequences.

Key Concepts

  • Habitat choice can be a cause (and a consequence) of adaptation.
  • Habitat choice may reduce or increase the scope for other processes to contribute to adaptation.
  • Habitat isolation is often a strong barrier to gene flow between diverging lineages.
  • Habitat isolation evolves early in the process of divergence.
  • Habitat isolation may have been a key contributor to the extraordinary diversity of herbivorous insects.
  • The specific mechanisms underlying individual dispersal and settlement decisions can greatly affect the evolutionary consequences of habitat choice.

Keywords: adaptation; dispersal; habitat choice; matching habitat choice; reproductive isolation; speciation

Figure 1. Habitat choice is the main driver of local crypsis in the azure sand grasshopper, Sphingonotus azurescens, in an urban habitat, a deserted housing development site consisting of asphalt roads, sidewalks, parking spaces and bike paths. Colour variation in S. azurescens is continuous and can range from bluish‐grey (a, left) to darker greyish‐brown (a, right). (a) Photos reproduced with permission from Pim Edelaar. © Pim Edelaar In the laboratory, grasshoppers painted dark (b, dark dots, left) used available dark habitat much more than grasshoppers painted pale (b, pale dots, right). Additionally, in the field, artificially darkened grasshoppers (c) were recaptured more frequently on dark asphalt, whereas pale individuals were recaptured more frequently on paler surfaces, such as sidewalks and parking spaces. (b,c) From Edelaar P, Baños‐Villalba A, Quevedo DP, Escudero G, Bolnick DI, and Jordán‐Andrade A (2019) Biased movement drives local cryptic coloration on distinct urban pavements. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 286: 20191343.
Figure 2. Habitat choice contributes to local adaptation in the morphology of three‐spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) between lake and stream environments. Morphological variation is continuous in stickleback: (a) lake fish tend to have a more streamlined body shape and longer tail compared to (b) stream fish to facilitate the use of open water (limnetic) habitats. (a,b) Photos reproduced with permission from Marius Roesti. © Marius Roesti. (c) Following transplantation of lake and stream fish to the intersection of lake and stream habitats, lake individuals were more likely to be recaptured in the lake (lake to lake) and stream fish in the stream (stream to stream). Interestingly, lake fish that were recaptured in the stream (lake to stream) were more stream‐like in their morphology among lake fish. Likewise, stream fish that were recaptured in the lake (stream to lake) were more lake‐like in their morphology among stream fish. (c) From Bolnick DI, Snowberg LK, Patenia C, Stutz WE, Ingram T, and Lau OL (2009) Phenotypedependent native habitat preference facilitates divergence between parapatric lake and stream stickleback. Evolution 63: 2004–2016.
Figure 3. Phenotypic plasticity and habitat choice contribute to local adaptation in limb length in the spring salamander, Gyrionophilus porphryticus, between fast‐flowing riffles and slow‐flowing pools in headwater streams. Whereas (a) adults are mainly aquatic and sometimes make terrestrial movements at night, (b) larvae are exclusively aquatic. (a,b) Photos reproduced with permission from Todd W. Pierson. © Todd W. Pierson. (c) Habitat choice contributed to adaptation in limb length, as the probability of individuals moving between habitats and the directionality of their movement between habitats depends on limb length. Specifically, long‐limbed individuals were more likely to move from riffles to pools, whereas short‐limbed individuals were more likely to move from pools to riffles. (d) However, salamanders also showed phenotypic plasticity in limb length: the limb lengths of salamanders that moved between habitats changed to become better adapted to their destination habitats, while the limb lengths of salamanders that did not move between habitats did not change. (c,d) From Lowe WH, and Addis BR (2019) Matching habitat choice and plasticity contribute to phenotypeenvironment covariation in a stream salamander. Ecology 100: e02661.
Figure 4. The mean strength (individual contribution to total isolation) of multiple reproductive isolating barriers (±SE) across several systems. Data from Nosil P, Vines T, and Funk DJ (2005) Perspective: Reproductive isolation caused by natural selection against immigrants from divergent habitats. Evolution 59: 705–719.
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Further Reading

Edelaar P and Bolnick DI (2012) Non‐random gene flow: an underappreciated force in evolution and ecology. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 27: 659–665.

Edelaar P and Bolnick DI (2019) Appreciating the multiple processes increasing individual or population fitness. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 34: 435–446.

Webster SE, Galindo J, Grahame JW and Butlin RK (2012) Habitat choice and speciation. International Journal of Ecology 2012: 154686.

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Porter, Cody K, and Akcali, Christopher K(Aug 2020) Evolutionary Implications of Habitat Choice. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0029011]