Environment-dependent variation in selection on life history across small spatial scales

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Variation in life-history traits is ubiquitous, even though genetic variation is thought to be depleted by selection. One potential mechanism for the maintenance of trait variation is spatially variable selection. We explored spatial variation in selection in the field for a colonial marine invertebrate that shows phenotypic differences across a depth gradient of only 3 m. Our analysis included life-history traits relating to module size, colony growth, and phenology. Directional selection on colony growth varied in strength across depths, while module size was under directional selection at one depth but not the other. Differences in selection may explain some of the observed phenotypic differentiation among depths for one trait but not another: instead, selection should actually erode the differences observed for this trait. Our results suggest selection is not acting alone to maintain trait variation within and across environments in this system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2404-2410
Number of pages7
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Bryozoan
  • competition
  • growth
  • heterogeneous selection
  • natural selection
  • Watersipora

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