Dynamics of populations depend on demographic parameters which may change during evolution. In simple ecological models given by one–dimensional difference equations, the evolution of demographic parameters generally leads to equilibrium population dynamics. Here we show that this is not true in spatially structured ecological models. Using a multi–patch metapopulation model, we study the evolutionary dynamics of phenotypes that differ both in their response to local crowding, i.e. in their competitive behaviour within a habitat, and in their rate of dispersal between habitats. Our simulation results show that evolution can favour phenotypes that have the intrinsic potential for very complex dynamics provided that the environment is spatially structured and temporally variable. These phenotypes owe their evolutionary persistence to their large dispersal rates. They typically coexist with phenotypes that have low dispersal rates and that exhibit equilibrium dynamics when alone. This coexistence is brought about through the phenomenon of evolutionary branching, during which an initially uniform population splits into the two phenotypic classes.