Published in The American Naturalist, Volume 171, Issue 5, May 1, 2008, pages 553-567. Copyright © 2010 University Of Chicago Press. The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/587072.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Shannon J. McCauley was not yet affiliated with Cal Poly.
Ecological and evolutionary processes are affected by forces acting at both local and regional scales, yet our understanding of how these scales interact has remained limited. These processes are fundamentally linked through individuals that develop as juveniles in one environment and then either remain in the natal habitat or disperse to new environments. Empirical studies in a diverse range of organisms have demonstrated that the conditions experienced in the natal habitat can have profound effects on the adult phenotype. This environmentally induced phenotypic variation can in turn affect the probability that an individual will disperse to a new environment and the ecological and evolutionary impact of that individual in the new environment. We synthesize the literature on this process and propose a framework for exploring the linkage between local developmental environment and dispersal. We then discuss the ecological and evolutionary implications of dispersal asymmetries generated by the effects of natal habitat conditions on individual phenotypes. Our review indicates that the influence of natal habitat conditions on adult phenotypes may be a highly general mechanism affecting the flow of individuals between populations. The wealth of information already gathered on how local conditions affect adult phenotype can and should be integrated into the study of dispersal as a critical force in ecology and evolution.