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      Beyond buying time: the role of plasticity in phenotypic adaptation to rapid environmental change


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          How populations and species respond to modified environmental conditions is critical to their persistence both now and into the future, particularly given the increasing pace of environmental change. The process of adaptation to novel environmental conditions can occur via two mechanisms: (1) the expression of phenotypic plasticity (the ability of one genotype to express varying phenotypes when exposed to different environmental conditions), and (2) evolution via selection for particular phenotypes, resulting in the modification of genetic variation in the population. Plasticity, because it acts at the level of the individual, is often hailed as a rapid-response mechanism that will enable organisms to adapt and survive in our rapidly changing world. But plasticity can also retard adaptation by shifting the distribution of phenotypes in the population, shielding it from natural selection. In addition to which, not all plastic responses are adaptive—now well-documented in cases of ecological traps. In this theme issue, we aim to present a considered view of plasticity and the role it could play in facilitating or hindering adaption to environmental change. This introduction provides a re-examination of our current understanding of the role of phenotypic plasticity in adaptation and sets the theme issue's contributions in their broader context. Four key themes emerge: the need to measure plasticity across both space and time; the importance of the past in predicting the future; the importance of the link between plasticity and sexual selection; and the need to understand more about the nature of selection on plasticity itself. We conclude by advocating the need for cross-disciplinary collaborations to settle the question of whether plasticity will promote or retard species' rates of adaptation to ever-more stressful environmental conditions.

          This article is part of the theme issue ‘The role of plasticity in phenotypic adaptation to rapid environmental change’.

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          Adaptive versus non-adaptive phenotypic plasticity and the potential for contemporary adaptation in new environments

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            Plant phenotypic plasticity in a changing climate.

            Climate change is altering the availability of resources and the conditions that are crucial to plant performance. One way plants will respond to these changes is through environmentally induced shifts in phenotype (phenotypic plasticity). Understanding plastic responses is crucial for predicting and managing the effects of climate change on native species as well as crop plants. Here, we provide a toolbox with definitions of key theoretical elements and a synthesis of the current understanding of the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying plasticity relevant to climate change. By bringing ecological, evolutionary, physiological and molecular perspectives together, we hope to provide clear directives for future research and stimulate cross-disciplinary dialogue on the relevance of phenotypic plasticity under climate change. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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              Thermal Adaptation


                Author and article information

                Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci
                Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond., B, Biol. Sci
                Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
                The Royal Society
                18 March 2019
                28 January 2019
                28 January 2019
                : 374
                : 1768 , Theme issue ‘The role of plasticity in phenotypic adaptation to rapid environmental change’ compiled and edited by Jennifer M. Donelson, Juan D. Gaitán-Espitia, Rebecca J. Fox, Celia Schunter and Timothy Ravasi
                : 20180174
                [1 ] Division of Ecology and Evolution, Australian National University , Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia
                [2 ] ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University , Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia
                [3 ] The Swire Institute of Marine Science, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong , Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, SAR, People's Republic of China
                [4 ] KAUST Environmental Epigenetic Program (KEEP), Division of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology , Thuwal 23955-6900, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
                Author notes
                Author information
                PMC6365870 PMC6365870 6365870 rstb20180174
                © 2019 The Author(s)

                Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.

                : 7 December 2018
                Funded by: Australian Research Council;
                Funded by: The University of Hong Kong;
                Funded by: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology;
                Custom metadata
                March 18, 2019

                selection,acclimation,climate change,ecological and evolutionary dynamics,genotype×environment (GxE),genetic assimilation


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