Evolution in fine-grained environments. II. Habitat selection as a homeostatic mechanism

Alan R. Templeton, Edward D. Rothman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A model of genotype specific habitat selection is developed for an organism subject to within-lifetime environmental fluctuations. Habitat selection is first overlaid upon both hard and soft selection Levene models with either discrete or continuous habitats. It is shown that even if all genotypes have identical physiological and fitness responses within a habitat, habitat selection can still maintain a polymorphism. In other words, physiological divergence is not a necessary prerequisite for divergence in habitat preferences. Within-lifetime environmental variability is then assumed to occur within each chosen habitat. It is shown that habitat selection acts as an evolutionary filter that can enhance the fitness impact of some niches and effectively eliminate the impact of others such that it generally increases the chances for a polymorphism under soft selection. However, density-dependent effects obscure the relationship between physiological fitness and evolutionary outcome. Indeed, it is possible for selection to favor an allele causing its bearers to preferentially go to the niche to which they are least physiologically adapted. Hence, changes in habitat preference can evolve before an organism has completely adapted physiologically to a new habitat. The fitness impact of habitat selection interacts with both homeostatic avoidance mechanisms (i.e., short-term buffering) and with tolerance (long-term) mechanisms. In general, habitat selection will be most favored in those organisms deficient in long-term tolerance. Moreover, habitat selection tends to accentuate selection favoring short-term avoidance mechanisms. Thus, organisms displaying much habitat selection should have poor physiological long-term tolerances but effective physiological short-term avoidance mechanisms. Finally, if the fitness costs associated with habitat selection are too large to be ignored and are comparable for all genotypes, habitat selection directs the selective pressures back onto the physiological homeostatic capabilities. Hence, the very existence and extent of habitat selection depends critically upon the physiological capabilities of the organism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-340
Number of pages15
JournalTheoretical Population Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1981
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank Dr. Charles Taylor and the anononyousr eviewersf or their critical commentso n an earlier draft of this manuscriptT. his work was supportedi n part by NSF. Grant DEB 78810455.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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