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      Adaptation to an extraordinary environment by evolution of phenotypic plasticity and genetic assimilation.

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      Journal of evolutionary biology
      Wiley

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          Abstract

          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

          Journal
          J Evol Biol
          Journal of evolutionary biology
          Wiley
          1420-9101
          1010-061X
          Jul 2009
          : 22
          : 7
          Affiliations
          [1 ] Division of Biology, Imperial College London, Silwood Park, Ascot, Berkshire, UK. r.lande@imperial.ac.uk
          Article
          JEB1754
          10.1111/j.1420-9101.2009.01754.x
          19467134
          5eef4c56-b74f-4335-96cc-4b347d7e43c5

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