Phenotypic plasticity is the property of a genotype to produce different phenotypes in response to different environmental conditions (Bradshaw 1965; Mazer and Damuth, this volume, chapter 2). Simply put, students of phenotypic plasticity deal with the way nature (genes) and nurture (environment) interact to yield the anatomy, morphology, and behavior of living organisms. Of course, not all genotypes respond differentially to changes in the environment, and not all environmental changes elicit a different phenotype given a particular genotype. Furthermore, while the distinction between genotype and phenotype is in principle very clear, several complicating factors immediately ensue. For example, the genotype can be modified by environmental action, as in the case of DNA methylation patterns (e.g., Sano et al. 1990; Mazer and Damuth, this volume, chapter 2). More intuitively, since environments are constantly changed by the organisms that live in them, the genetic constitution of a population influences the environment itself. Perhaps the most intuitive way to visualize phenotypic plasticity is through what is termed a norm of reaction. This genotype-specific function relates the phenotypes produced to the environments in which they are produced. The figure presents a simple example with a population made of three different genotypes experiencing a series of environmental conditions. Genotype 1 yields a low phenotypic value toward the left end of the environmental continuum (say, an insect with small wings at low temperature) but a high phenotypic value at the opposite environmental extreme (say, large wings at high temperature). Genotype 3, however, does the exact opposite, while genotype 2 is unresponsive to environmental changes, always producing the same phenotype regardless of the conditions (within the range of environments considered). Even though the case presented in figure 5.1 is very simple (notice, for example, that the reaction norms are linear, which is unlikely in real situations), several general principles are readily understood following a closer analysis: … 1. Let us consider the relationship between phenotypic plasticity and reaction norms. While the two terms are often used as synonyms, they are clearly not. A reaction norm is the trajectory in environment-phenotype space that is typical of a given genotype; plasticity is the degree to which that reaction norm deviates from a flat line parallel to the environmental axis. …
Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.