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Collapse, Tipping Points, and Spatial Demographic Structure Arising from the Adopted Migrant Life History

The roles of dispersal and recruitment have long been a focal point in ecology and conservation. The adopted migrant hypothesis proposes a life history in which social learning transmits migratory knowledge between generations of iteroparous fish. Specifically, juveniles disperse from the parental spawning site, encounter and recruit to a local adult population, and learn migration routes between spawning and foraging habitats by following older, experienced fish. Although the adopted migrant life history may apply to many species of pelagic marine fishes, there is scant theoretical or empirical work on the consequent population dynamics. We developed and analyzed a mathematical model of this life history in which the recruitment of juveniles depends on the relative abundance of the local populations and recruitment overlap, which measures the ease with which juveniles are recruited by a nonparental population. We demonstrate that the adopted migrant life history can maintain spatial demographic structure among local populations, that it can also predispose local populations to collapse when a tipping point is crossed, and that recovery after collapse is impaired by reduced recruitment at small local population sizes.