The adaptive value of density-dependent habitat specialization and social network centrality

Webber, Quinn Marshall Richard and Laforge, Michel P. and Bonar, Maegwin and Vander Wal, Eric (2024) The adaptive value of density-dependent habitat specialization and social network centrality. Nature Communications, 15. ISSN 2041-1723

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Density dependence is a fundamental ecological process. In particular, animal habitat selection and social behavior often affect fitness in a density-dependent manner. The Ideal Free Distribution (IFD) and niche variation hypothesis (NVH) present distinct predictions associated with Optimal Foraging Theory about how the effect of habitat selection on fitness varies with population density. Using caribou (Rangifer tarandus) in Canada as a model system, we test competing hypotheses about how habitat specialization, social behavior, and annual reproductive success (co)vary across a population density gradient. Within a behavioral reaction norm framework, we estimate repeatability, behavioral plasticity, and covariance among social behavior and habitat selection to investigate the adaptive value of sociality and habitat selection. In support of NVH, but not the IFD, we find that at high density habitat specialists had higher annual reproductive success than generalists, but were also less social than generalists, suggesting the possibility that specialists were less social to avoid competition. Our study supports niche variation as a mechanism for density-dependent habitat specialization.

Item Type: Article
Item ID: 16509
Additional Information: Memorial University Open Access Author's Fund
Department(s): Science, Faculty of > Biology
Date: 24 May 2024
Date Type: Publication
Geographic Location: Canada
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
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