Density-dependence across dispersal stages in a hermaphrodite land snail : insights from discrete choice models
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Oecologia. - Berlin
, p. 1117-1128
University of Antwerp
Dispersal movements, i.e. movements leading to gene flow, are key behaviours with important, but only partially understood, consequences for the dynamics and evolution of populations. In particular, density-dependent dispersal has been widely described, yet how it is determined by the interaction with individual traits, and whether density effects differ between the three steps of dispersal (departure, transience, and settlement), remains largely unknown. Using a semi-natural landscape, we studied dispersal choices of Cornu aspersum land snails, a species in which negative effects of crowding are well documented, and analysed them using dispersal discrete choice models, a new method allowing the analysis of dispersal decisions by explicitly considering the characteristics of all available alternatives and their interaction with individual traits. Subadults were more dispersive than adults, confirming existing results. In addition, departure and settlement were both density dependent: snails avoided crowded patches at both ends of the dispersal process, and subadults were more reluctant to settle into crowded patches than adults. Moreover, we found support for carry-over effects of release density on subsequent settlement decisions: snails from crowded contexts were more sensitive to density in their subsequent immigration choices. The fact that settlement decisions were informed indicates that costs of prospecting are not as important as previously thought in snails, and/or that snails use alternative ways to collect information, such as indirect social information (e.g. trail following). The observed density-dependent dispersal dynamics may play an important role in the ability of C. aspersum to successfully colonise frequently human-disturbed habitats around the world.