Working Group

Costs of phenotypic plasticity and adaptation to novel environments

PI(s): Courtney Murren (College of Charleston)
Carl Schlichting (University of Connecticut)
Start Date: 1-Jun-2009
End Date: 31-Mar-2011
Keywords: phenotypic plasticity, adaptation, natural selection

It is easily demonstrable that organisms with rapid, appropriate plastic responses to environmental change will prevail over genotypes with fixed phenotypes. It is also accepted that the general dearth of organisms successful across a wide environmental range indicates fundamental limits to or costs of plasticity. The nature of constraining factors has been broadly discussed (DeWitt et al. 1998), and numerous studies have been done to quantify them. However, a curious pattern has emerged: although hypothesized to be widespread, costs are absent more often than they are detected.
The issue of costs of plasticity (CoP) lies at the intersection of a range of evolutionary and ecological questions: What are the limits to plasticity? Are CoP associated with life history tradeoffs? Are CoP expected in all environments? Does plasticity enhance invasiveness? etc.
This working group will address two fundamental questions.
1) Are the expectations that costs of plasticity should be universal well-founded (i.e., the “no free lunch” principle)?
Several authors have proposed that, in situations where the intensity of selection for adaptive plasticity is strong, there should be corresponding pressure to ameliorate costs.
2) Independently of the answer to the first question, Are analytical and experimental methods for detecting CoP appropriate or sufficiently sensitive?
CoP have most often been studied using common garden style plasticity experiments and analyzed via van Tienderen’s (1991) multiple regression approach.

Related products

  • Constraints on the evolution of phenotypic plasticity: limits and costs of phenotype and plasticity C J Murren, J R Auld, H Callahan, C K Ghalambor, C A Handelsman, M A Heskel, J G Kingsolver, H J Maclean, J Masel, H Maughan, D W Pfennig, R A Relyea, S Seiter, E Snell-Rood, U K Steiner and C D Schlichting. 2015, Constraints on the evolution of phenotypic plasticity: limits and costs of phenotype and plasticity, Heredity,
  • Evolutionary Change in Continuous Reaction Norms Courtney J. Murren, Heidi J. Maclean, Sarah E. Diamond, Ulrich K. Steiner, Mary A. Heskel, Corey A. Handelsman, Cameron K. Ghalambor, Josh R. Auld, Hilary S. Callahan, David W. Pfennig, Rick A. Relyea, Carl D. Schlichting and Joel Kingsolver. 2014, Evolutionary Change in Continuous Reaction Norms, The American Naturalist, volume 183, issue 4, pp. 453-467