In this review, I approach the role of phenotypic plasticity as a key aspect of the conceptual framework of evolutionary biology. The concept of phenotypic plasticity is related to other relevant concepts of contemporary research in evolutionary biology, such as assimilation, genetic accommodation and canalization, evolutionary robustness, evolvability, evolutionary capacitance and niche construction. Although not always adaptive, phenotypic plasticity can promote the integration of these concepts to represent some of the dynamics of evolution, which can be visualized through the use of a conceptual map. Although the use of conceptual maps is common in areas of knowledge such as psychology and education, their application in evolutionary biology can lead to a better understanding of the processes and conceptual interactions of the complex dynamics of evolution. The conceptual map I present here includes environmental variability and variation, phenotypic plasticity and natural selection as key concepts in evolutionary biology. The evolution of phenotypic plasticity is important to ecology at all levels of organization, from morphological, physiological and behavioral adaptations that influence the distribution and abundance of populations to the structuring of assemblages and communities and the flow of energy through trophic levels. Consequently, phenotypic plasticity is important for maintaining ecological processes and interactions that influence the complexity of biological diversity. In addition, because it is a typical occurrence and manifests itself through environmental variation in conditions and resources, plasticity must be taken into account in the development of management and conservation strategies at local and global levels.
If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.
Agrawal A.A. (2001) Phenotypic plasticity in the interactions and evolution of species. Science294321–326.
Ambrose S.H. (1998) Late Pleistocene human population bottlenecks volcanic winter and differentiation of modern humans. J. Hum. Evol.34 623–651.
Bohacek J. Engmann O. Germain P-L. Schelbert S. & Mansuy I.M. (2018) Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance: from biology to society—Summary Latsis Symposium Aug 28–30 2017 Zürich Switzerland. Environmental Epigenetics 4 1–6.
Bell G. (2008) Selection: the mechanism of evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bradshaw A.D. (1965) Evolutionary significance of phenotypic plasticity in plants. Adv. Genet.13 115–55.
Byars S.G. Ewbank D. Govindaraju D.R. & Stearns C.S. (2010) Natural selection in a human contemporary population. P. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107 (Supl. 1) 1787–1792.
Chevin L-M & Hoffmann A.A. (2017) Evolution of phenotypic plasticity in extreme environments. Philos. T. Roy. Soc. B DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0138.
Crispo E. (2007) The Baldwin effect and genetic assimilation: revisiting two mechanisms of evolutionary change mediated by phenotypic plasticity. Evolution 61 2469–2479.
DeLong J.P. Forbes V.E. Galic N. Gilbert J.P. Laporte R.G. Philips J.S. et al. (2016) How fast is fast? Eco-evolutionary dynamics and rates of change in populations and phenotypes. Ecol. Evol.6 573–581.
De Witt T.J. Sih A. & Wilson D.S. (1998) Costs and limits of phenotypic plasticity. Trends Ecol. Evol. 13 77–81.
Ehrenreich I.M. &Pfennig D.W. (2015) Genetic assimilation: a review of its potential proximate causes and evolutionary consequences. Ann. Bot.-London 117 769–799.
Endler J.A. (1986) Natural selection in the wild. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Feinberg A.P. (2018) The key role of epigenetics in human disease and mitigation. New Engl. J. Med. 378 1323–1334.
Fischer E.K. (2016) Flexibility and constraint in the evolution of gene expression and behavior. Brain Behav. Evolut.871–3.
Forsman A. (2015) Rethinking phenotypic plasticity and its consequences for individuals populations and species. Heredity 115 276–284.
Franklin J. (1986) Aristotle on species variation. Philosophy 61 245–252.
Fusco G. & Minelli A. (2010). Phenotypic plasticity in development and evolution: facts and concepts. Philos. T. Roy. Soc. B 365 547–556.
Ghalambor C.K. McKay J.K. Carroll S.P. & Reznick D.N. (2007) Adaptive versus non-adaptive phenotypic plasticity and the potential for contemporary adaptation in new environments. Funct. Ecol. 21 394–407.
Geary D.C. & Flinn M.V. (2001) Evolution of human parental behavior and the human family. Parent. Sci. Pract. 1 5–61.
Grenier S. Barre P. & Litrico I. (2016) Phenotypic plasticity and selection: non exclusive mechanisms of adaptation. Scientifica 2016 Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/702170.
Haig D. (2007) Weismann Rules! OK? Epigenetics and the Lamarckian temptation. Biol. Philos. 22 415–422.
Hallgrímsson B. & Hall B.K. (2005) Variation and variability: central concepts in biology. In: B. Hallgrímsson & B.K. Hall (Eds) Variation (pp. 1–7). New York: Academic Press.
Hendry A.P. (2016) Key questions on the role of phenotypic plasticity in eco-evolutionary dynamics. J. Hered. 107 25–41.
Markov A.V. & Ivnitisk S.B. (2016) Evolutionary role of phenotypic plasticity. Moscow Univ. Biol. Sci. Bull. 71 185–192.
Martins R.P. (2017) To what degree are philosophy and the ecological niche concept necessary in the ecological theory and conservation? Eur. J. Ecol. 3 42–54.
Martins R.P. Tidon R. & Diniz Filho J.A.F. (2017) The evolutionary ecology of interactive synchronism: the illusion of the optimal phenotype. Eur. J. Ecol. 3 107–115.
Masel J. & Trotter M. (2010) Robustness and evolvability. Trends Genet. 26 406–414.
Masel J. (2013) Q&A: evolutionary capacitance. BMC Biol. 11 1–4.
Miner B.G. Sultan S.E. Morgan S.G. Padilla D.K. & Relyea R.A. (2005) Ecological consequences of phenotypic plasticity. Trends Ecol. Evol. 20 685-692.
Mithen S. (1996) The early prehistory of human social behavior: issues of archeological inference and cognitive evolution. Proc. Br. Acad. 88 145–147.
Murren C.J. Auld J.R. Callahan H. Ghalambor C.K. Handelsman C.A. Heskel M.A. et al. (2015) Constraints on the evolution of phenotypic plasticity: limits and costs of phenotype and plasticity. Heredity 115 293–301.
Nicoglou A. (2015) The evolution of phenotypic plasticity: genealogy of a debate in genetics. Stud. Hist. Philos. Sci. 50 67–76.
Noble D. (2015) Evolution beyond neo-Darwinism: a new conceptual framework. J. Exp. Biol. 218 7–13.
Novak J.D. & Cañas A.J. (2008) The theory underlying concept maps and how to construct and use them. Technical Report IHMC CmapTools Received from: http://cmap.ihmc.us/docs/pdf/TheoryUnderlyingConceptMaps.pdf
Palacio-López K. Beckage B. Scheiner S. & Molofsky J. (2015) The ubiquity of phenotypic plasticity in plants: a synthesis. Ecol. Evol. 5 3389–3400.
Pfennig D.W. Wund M.A. Snell-Rood E.C. Cruickshank T. Schlichting C.D. & Moczek A.P. (2010) Phenotypic plasticity’s impacts on diversification and speciation. Trends Ecol. Evol. 25 459–467.
Piersma T. & Drent J. (2003) Phenotypic flexibility and the evolution of organismal design. Trends Ecol.Evol.18 228–233.
Pigliucci M. (2007) Do we need an extended evolutionary synthesis? Evolution 6 2743–2749.
Pigliucci M. (2008) Is evolvability evolvable? Nat. Rev. Genet. 9 75–92.
Price T.D. Qvarnström A. & Irwin D.E. (2003) The role of phenotypic plasticity in driving genetic evolution. Philos. T. Roy. Soc. B 270 1433–1440.
Rampelotto P.H. (2013) Extremophiles and extreme environments. Life 3 482–485.
Reiners W.A. & Lockwood J.A. (2010) Philosophical foundations for the practices of ecology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Romanes G.J. (1913) Aristotle as a naturalist. Nature 91 201–204.
Scheiner S.M. (1993) Genetics and evolution of phenotypic plasticity. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 24 35–68.
Scheiner S.M. Mitchell R.J. & Callahan H.S. (2000) Using path analysis to measure natural selection. J. Evolution. Biol. 13 423–433.
Scheiner S.M. (2010) Toward a conceptual framework for biology. Q. Rev. Biol. 85 293–318.
Scheiner S.M. (2013) The genetics of phenotypic plasticity. XII. Temporal and spatial heterogeneity. Ecol. Evol. 3 4596–4609.
Scheiner S.M. (2014) The Baldwin effect: neglected and misunderstanding. Am. Nat. 184 ii–iii.
Scheiner S.M. Barfield M.& Holt R.D. (2017). The genetics of phenotypic plasticity. XV. Genetic assimilation the Baldwin effect and evolutionary rescue. Ecol. Evol. 7 8788-8803.
Scheiner S.M. (2018) The genetics of phenotypic plasticity. XVI. Interactions among traits and the flow of information. Evolution 72-11 2292–2230.
Shirokawa Y. & Shimada M. (2016) Cytoplasmic inheritance of parent– offspring cell structure in the clonal diatom Cyclotella meneghiniana. P. Roy. Soc. B-Biol Sci. DOI: 10.1098/4spb.2016.1632.
Slatkin M. 1987. Gene flow and geographic structure of natural populations. Science 236 787–792.
Stearns S.C. (1989) The evolutionary significance of phenotypic plasticity. Bioscience 39 436–445.
Trifonov E.V. (2011) Vocabulary of definitions of life suggests a definition. J. Biomol. Struct. Dyn. 29 259–266.
Valladares F. Gianoli E. & Gómez J.M. (2007) Ecological limits to plant phenotypic plasticity. New Phytol.176 749–763.
Wade M.J. & Kalisz S. (1990) The causes of natural selection. Evolution 44 1947–1955.
Waddington C.H. (1942) Canalization of development and the inheritance of acquired characters. Nature 150 563–565.
Waddington C.H. (1953) Genetic assimilation of an acquired character. Evolution 7 118–126.
Wagner G.P. & Altenberg L. (1996) Perspective: complex adaptations and the evolution of evolvability. Evolution 50 967–976.
West-Eberhard M.J. (2005) Phenotypic accommodation: adaptive innovation due to developmental plasticity. J. Exp. Zool. Part B 304B 610–618.
Whitman D.W. & Agrawal A.A. (2009) What is phenotypic plasticity and why is it important? In: D.W. Whitman & T.N. Ananthakrishna (Eds.) Phenotypic plasticity of insects: mechanisms and consequences (pp. 1-63). New Hampshire: Science Publishers Inc.