In recent years, the study of phenotypic and genetic variation has been enhanced by combining genetic, physiological, demographic, and behavioral components of life histories. Using these new approaches, we address the problem of adaptation to environmental heterogeneity by examining in detail the variation of several fitness-related traits in a small passerine bird, the blue tit, which has been extensively studied in habitat mosaics of the Mediterranean region. The response of blue tits to spatial habitat heterogeneity depends on their range of dispersal relative to the size of habitat patches. Dispersal over short distances leads to local specialization, whereas dispersal over long distances leads to phenotypic plasticity. Gene flow between habitats of different quality may produce local maladaptation and a source–sink population structure. However, when habitat-specific divergent selection regimes are strong enough to oppose the effects of gene flow, local adaptation may arise on a scale that is much smaller than the scale of dispersal.
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Vol. 56 • No. 8