Species range limits involve many aspects of evolution and ecology, from species distribution and abundance to the evolution of niches. Theory suggests myriad processes by which range limits arise, including competitive exclusion, Allee effects, and gene swamping; however, most models remain empirically untested. Range limits are correlated with a number of abiotic and biotic factors, but further experimentation is needed to understand underlying mechanisms. Range edges are characterized by increased genetic isolation, genetic differentiation, and variability in individual and population performance, but evidence for decreased abundance and fitness is lacking. Evolution of range limits is understudied in natural systems; in particular, the role of gene flow in shaping range limits is unknown. Biological invasions and rapid distribution shifts caused by climate change represent large-scale experiments on the underlying dynamics of range limits. A better fusion of experimentation and theory will advance our understanding of the causes of range limits.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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