Natal dispersal in a social landscape: Considering individual behavioral phenotypes and social environment in dispersal ecology

Tina W. Wey, Orr Spiegel, Pierre Olivier Montiglio, Karen E. Mabry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Natal dispersal, the movement of an organism from its birthplace to the site of first reproduction, is fundamental to many ecological and evolutionary processes. Mechanistically, individual dispersal decisions can depend on both individual phenotype and environmental cues. In particular, many established evolutionary theories of dispersal highlight the importance of the social environment. More recent research in behavioral ecology has focused on the importance of individual behavioral phenotypes. We reviewed the literature on individual behavioral phenotypes and dispersal and suggest that how individual behavioral phenotypes interact with the immediate social environment experienced by individuals in influencing dispersal is still poorly understood, despite growing interest. We found that very few studies had examined the interaction of individual behavioral phenotypes and social factors, and behavioral phenotypes related to social tendencies were less commonly measured than were behavioral phenotypes related to exploration or response to risk. Further, and unsurprisingly, studies on social behavioral phenotypes and dispersal behaviors during the transience stage of dispersal were underrepresented compared to the departure or settlement stages. Future studies in this area should aim to: a) make explicit links between behavioral traits and their proposed effects on dispersal decisions throughout multiple stages of dispersal, b) integrate more continuous dispersal variables, and c) consider the effects of the spatial distribution and phenotypes of conspecifics (i.e., the social landscape) encountered by individual dispersers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-556
Number of pages14
JournalCurrent Zoology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal dispersal
  • Animal personality
  • Behavioral syndromes
  • Individual differences
  • Social landscape

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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