Adaptive phenotypic plasticity for life-history and less fitness-related traits

Cristina Acasuso-Rivero, Courtney J Murren, Carl D Schlichting, Ulrich K Steiner

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Organisms are faced with variable environments and one of the most common solutions to cope with such variability is phenotypic plasticity, a modification of the phenotype to the environment. These modifications are commonly modelled in evolutionary theories as adaptive, influencing ecological and evolutionary processes. If plasticity is adaptive, we would predict that the closer to fitness a trait is, the less plastic it would be. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a meta-analysis of 213 studies and measured the plasticity of each reported trait as a coefficient of variation. Traits were categorized as closer to fitness-life-history traits including reproduction and survival related traits, and farther from fitness-non-life-history traits including traits related to development, metabolism and physiology, morphology and behaviour. Our results showed, unexpectedly, that although traits differed in their amounts of plasticity, trait plasticity was not related to its proximity to fitness. These findings were independent of taxonomic groups or environmental types assessed. We caution against general expectations that plasticity is adaptive, as assumed by many models of its evolution. More studies are needed that test the adaptive nature of plasticity, and additional theoretical explorations on adaptive and non-adaptive plasticity are encouraged.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20190653
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume286
Issue number1904
ISSN0962-8452
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12. Jun 2019

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phenotypic plasticity
Plasticity
plasticity
life history
fitness
meta-analysis
Meta-Analysis
physiology
plastics
testing
phenotype
metabolism
organisms
evolutionary theory
life history trait
Physiology
Metabolism
plastic
Plastics
Life History Traits

Keywords

  • (non-) adaptive plasticity
  • Demographic buffering
  • Environmental variation
  • Evolution
  • Fitness
  • Life-history

Cite this

Acasuso-Rivero, Cristina ; Murren, Courtney J ; Schlichting, Carl D ; Steiner, Ulrich K. / Adaptive phenotypic plasticity for life-history and less fitness-related traits. In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2019 ; Vol. 286, No. 1904.
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abstract = "Organisms are faced with variable environments and one of the most common solutions to cope with such variability is phenotypic plasticity, a modification of the phenotype to the environment. These modifications are commonly modelled in evolutionary theories as adaptive, influencing ecological and evolutionary processes. If plasticity is adaptive, we would predict that the closer to fitness a trait is, the less plastic it would be. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a meta-analysis of 213 studies and measured the plasticity of each reported trait as a coefficient of variation. Traits were categorized as closer to fitness-life-history traits including reproduction and survival related traits, and farther from fitness-non-life-history traits including traits related to development, metabolism and physiology, morphology and behaviour. Our results showed, unexpectedly, that although traits differed in their amounts of plasticity, trait plasticity was not related to its proximity to fitness. These findings were independent of taxonomic groups or environmental types assessed. We caution against general expectations that plasticity is adaptive, as assumed by many models of its evolution. More studies are needed that test the adaptive nature of plasticity, and additional theoretical explorations on adaptive and non-adaptive plasticity are encouraged.",
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Adaptive phenotypic plasticity for life-history and less fitness-related traits. / Acasuso-Rivero, Cristina; Murren, Courtney J; Schlichting, Carl D; Steiner, Ulrich K.

In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 286, No. 1904, 20190653, 12.06.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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T1 - Adaptive phenotypic plasticity for life-history and less fitness-related traits

AU - Acasuso-Rivero, Cristina

AU - Murren, Courtney J

AU - Schlichting, Carl D

AU - Steiner, Ulrich K

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AB - Organisms are faced with variable environments and one of the most common solutions to cope with such variability is phenotypic plasticity, a modification of the phenotype to the environment. These modifications are commonly modelled in evolutionary theories as adaptive, influencing ecological and evolutionary processes. If plasticity is adaptive, we would predict that the closer to fitness a trait is, the less plastic it would be. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a meta-analysis of 213 studies and measured the plasticity of each reported trait as a coefficient of variation. Traits were categorized as closer to fitness-life-history traits including reproduction and survival related traits, and farther from fitness-non-life-history traits including traits related to development, metabolism and physiology, morphology and behaviour. Our results showed, unexpectedly, that although traits differed in their amounts of plasticity, trait plasticity was not related to its proximity to fitness. These findings were independent of taxonomic groups or environmental types assessed. We caution against general expectations that plasticity is adaptive, as assumed by many models of its evolution. More studies are needed that test the adaptive nature of plasticity, and additional theoretical explorations on adaptive and non-adaptive plasticity are encouraged.

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