2012 journal article
Asymmetric Dispersal Can Maintain Larval Polymorphism: A Model Motivated by Streblospio benedicti
Integrative and Comparative Biology, 52(1), 197–212.
Polymorphism in traits affecting dispersal occurs in a diverse variety of taxa. Typically, the maintenance of a dispersal polymorphism is attributed to environmental heterogeneity where parental bet-hedging can be favored. There are, however, examples of dispersal polymorphisms that occur across similar environments. For example, the estuarine polychaete Streblospio benedicti has a highly heritable offspring dimorphism that affects larval dispersal potential. We use analytical models of dispersal to determine the conditions necessary for a stable dispersal polymorphism to exist. We show that in asexual haploids, sexual haploids, and in sexual diploids in the absence of overdominance, asymmetric dispersal is required in order to maintain a dispersal polymorphism when patches do not vary in intrinsic quality. Our study adds an additional factor, dispersal asymmetry, to the short list of mechanisms that can maintain polymorphism in nature. The region of the parameter space in which polymorphism is possible is limited, suggesting why dispersal polymorphisms within species are rare.