loading page

Adaptive and non-adaptive plasticity in changing environments: implications for sexual species with different life history strategies
  • +4
  • Daniel Romero-Mujalli,
  • Markus Rochow,
  • Sandra Kahl,
  • Sofia Paraskevopoulou,
  • Remco Folkertsma,
  • Florian Jeltsch,
  • Ralph Tiedemann
Daniel Romero-Mujalli
University of Potsdam

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Markus Rochow
University of Potsdam
Author Profile
Sandra Kahl
University of Potsdam
Author Profile
Sofia Paraskevopoulou
University of Potsdam
Author Profile
Remco Folkertsma
University of Potsdam Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
Author Profile
Florian Jeltsch
University of Potsdam
Author Profile
Ralph Tiedemann
University of Potsdam
Author Profile


Populations adapt to novel environmental conditions by genetic changes or phenotypic plasticity. Plastic responses are generally faster and can buffer fitness losses under variable conditions. Plasticity is typically modelled as random noise and linear reaction norms that assume simple one-to-one genotype-phenotype maps and no limits to the phenotypic response. Most studies on plasticity have focused on its effect on population viability. However, it is not clear, whether the advantage of plasticity depends solely on environmental fluctuations or also on the genetic and demographic properties (life histories) of populations. Here we present an individual-based model and study the relative importance of adaptive and non-adaptive plasticity for populations of sexual species with different life histories experiencing directional stochastic climate change. Environmental fluctuations were simulated using differentially autocorrelated climatic stochasticity or noise color, and scenarios of directional climate change. Non-adaptive plasticity was simulated as a random environmental effect on trait development, while adaptive plasticity as a linear, logistic, or sinusoidal reaction norm. The last two imposed limits to the plastic response and emphasized flexible interactions of the genotype with the environment. Interestingly, this assumption led to (i) smaller phenotypic than genotypic variance in the population and the coexistence of polymorphisms, (ii) many-to-one genotype-phenotype map, and (iii) the maintenance of higher genetic variation – compared to linear reaction norms and genetic determinism – even when the population was exposed to a constant environment for several generations. Limits to plasticity led to genetic accommodation, when costs were negligible, and to the appearance of cryptic variation when limits were exceeded. We found that adaptive plasticity promoted population persistence under red noise stochasticity and was particularly important for life histories with low fecundity. Populations producing more offspring could cope with environmental fluctuations solely by genetic changes or random plasticity, unless environmental change was too fast.
29 Dec 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
30 Dec 2020Submission Checks Completed
30 Dec 2020Assigned to Editor
04 Jan 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
05 Jan 2021Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
26 Feb 20211st Revision Received
03 Mar 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
03 Mar 2021Submission Checks Completed
03 Mar 2021Assigned to Editor
03 Mar 2021Editorial Decision: Accept