Evolution and maintenance of the environmental component of the phenotypic variance: benefit of plastic traits under changing environments

The American Naturalist
Xu-Sheng Zhang


How environmental variances in quantitative traits are influenced by variable environments is an important problem in evolutionary biology. In this study, the evolution and maintenance of phenotypic variance in a plastic trait under stabilizing selection are investigated. The mapping from genotypic value to phenotypic value of the quantitative trait is approximated by a linear reaction norm, with genotypic effects on its phenotypic mean and sensitivity to environment. The environmental deviation is assumed to be decomposed into environmental quality, which interacts with genotypic value, and residual developmental noise, which is independent of genotype. Environmental quality and the optimal phenotype of stabilizing selection are allowed to randomly fluctuate in both space and time, and individuals migrate equally before development and reproduction among different niches. Analyses show that phenotypic plasticity is adaptive within variable environments if correlations have become established between the optimal phenotype and environmental quality in space and/or time. The evolved plasticity increases with variances in optimal phenotypes and correlations between optimal phenotype and environmental quality; this further induces ...Continue Reading


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Quantitative Trait Loci
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