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Plasticity predicts evolution in a marine alga

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      Abstract

      Under global change, populations have four possible responses: ‘migrate, acclimate, adapt or die’ (Gienapp et al. 2008 Climate change and evolution: disentangling environmental and genetic response. Mol. Ecol. 17, 167–178. (doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03413.x)). The challenge is to predict how much migration, acclimatization or adaptation populations are capable of. We have previously shown that populations from more variable environments are more plastic (Schaum et al. 2013 Variation in plastic responses of a globally distributed picoplankton species to ocean acidification. Nature 3, 298–230. (doi:10.1038/nclimate1774)), and here we use experimental evolution with a marine microbe to learn that plastic responses predict the extent of adaptation in the face of elevated partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2). Specifically, plastic populations evolve more, and plastic responses in traits other than growth can predict changes in growth in a marine microbe. The relationship between plasticity and evolution is strongest when populations evolve in fluctuating environments, which favour the evolution and maintenance of plasticity. Strikingly, plasticity predicts the extent, but not direction of phenotypic evolution. The plastic response to elevated pCO2 in green algae is to increase cell division rates, but the evolutionary response here is to decrease cell division rates over 400 generations until cells are dividing at the same rate their ancestors did in ambient CO2. Slow-growing cells have higher mitochondrial potential and withstand further environmental change better than faster growing cells. Based on this, we hypothesize that slow growth is adaptive under CO2 enrichment when associated with the production of higher quality daughter cells.

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      Most cited references 31

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      Adaptation, Plasticity, and Extinction in a Changing Environment: Towards a Predictive Theory

      The authors analyze developmental, genetic, and demographic mechanisms by which populations tolerate changing environments and discuss empirical methods for determining the critical rate of sustained environmental change that causes population extinction.
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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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          Adaptation to an extraordinary environment by evolution of phenotypic plasticity and genetic assimilation.

           R Lande (2009)
          Adaptation to a sudden extreme change in environment, beyond the usual range of background environmental fluctuations, is analysed using a quantitative genetic model of phenotypic plasticity. Generations are discrete, with time lag tau between a critical period for environmental influence on individual development and natural selection on adult phenotypes. The optimum phenotype, and genotypic norms of reaction, are linear functions of the environment. Reaction norm elevation and slope (plasticity) vary among genotypes. Initially, in the average background environment, the character is canalized with minimum genetic and phenotypic variance, and no correlation between reaction norm elevation and slope. The optimal plasticity is proportional to the predictability of environmental fluctuations over time lag tau. During the first generation in the new environment the mean fitness suddenly drops and the mean phenotype jumps towards the new optimum phenotype by plasticity. Subsequent adaptation occurs in two phases. Rapid evolution of increased plasticity allows the mean phenotype to closely approach the new optimum. The new phenotype then undergoes slow genetic assimilation, with reduction in plasticity compensated by genetic evolution of reaction norm elevation in the original environment.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            Institute of Evolutionary Biology , University of Edinburgh , Ashworth Laboratories, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JF, UK
            Author notes
            Journal
            Proc Biol Sci
            Proc. Biol. Sci
            RSPB
            royprsb
            Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
            The Royal Society
            0962-8452
            1471-2954
            22 October 2014
            22 October 2014
            : 281
            : 1793
            25209938
            4173685
            10.1098/rspb.2014.1486
            rspb20141486

            © 2014 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

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