The distinct phenotypic signatures of dispersal and stress in an arthropod model: from physiology to life history
Dispersing individuals are expected to encounter costs during transfer and in the novel environment, and may also have experienced stress in their natal patch. Given this, a non-random subset of the population should engage in dispersal and eventually show divergent stress-related responses towards new conditions. Dispersal allows escape from stress, but is equally subjecting individuals to it. Physiological shifts expressed in the metabolome form a major part of responses to stress exposure and are expected to be associated with the dispersal phenotype, thereby shaping physiological dispersal syndromes. We analyzed how metabolic profiles and life-history traits varied between dispersers and residents of the model two-spotted spider mite Tetranychus urticae, and whether and how these syndromes varied with exposure to a stressful new host plant (tomato). Regardless of the effect of host plant, we found a physiological dispersal syndrome where, relative to philopatric individuals, dispersers were characterized by lower leaf consumption rates and a lower concentration of several amino acids, indicating a potential dispersal-foraging trade-off. As a possible consequence of this lower food intake, dispersers also showed a lower reproductive performance. Responses to tomato exposure were consistent with this plant being a stressor for Tetranychus urticae, including reduced fecundity and reduced feeding by mites. Tomato-exposed mites laid larger eggs, which can be interpreted as a plastic response to food stress, increasing the likelihood of survival to maturity. Contrary to what could be expected from the costs of dispersal and stress resistance and from previous meta-population level studies, there was no interaction between dispersal status and host plant for any of the examined traits, indicating that the impacts of a new stressful host plant are equally incurred by residents and dispersers. We thus provide novel insights in the processes that shape dispersal and the putative feedbacks on ecological dynamics in spatially structured populations.
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