“Predator perspective drives geographic variation in frequency-dependent polymorphism”

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Iris A. Holmes, Maggie R. Grundler, and Alison R. Davis Rabosky

Size of predator vs prey home range can drive mosaics in color polymorphism even without spatially varying selection


Color polymorphism in natural populations can manifest as a striking patchwork of phenotypes in space, with neighboring populations characterized by dramatic differences in morph composition. These “geographic mosaics” can be challenging to explain in the absence of localized selection because they are unlikely to result from simple isolation-by-distance or clinal variation in selective regimes. To identify processes that can lead to the formation of geographic mosaics, we developed a simulation-based model to explore the influence of predator perspective, selection, migration, and genetic linkage of color loci on allele frequencies in polymorphic populations over space and time. Using simulated populations inspired by the biology of Heliconius longwing butterflies, Cepaea land snails, Oophaga poison frogs, and Sonora ground snakes, we found that the relative sizes of predator and prey home ranges can produce large differences in morph composition between neighboring populations under both positive and negative frequency-dependent selection. We also demonstrated the importance of the interaction of predator perspective with the type of frequency-dependence and localized directional selection across migration and selection intensities. Our results show that regional-scale predation can promote the formation of phenotypic mosaics in prey species, without the need to invoke spatial variation in selective regimes. We suggest that predator behavior can play an important and underappreciated role in the formation and maintenance of geographic mosaics in polymorphic species. Read the Article