Plasticity leaves a phenotypic signature during local adaptation

Reinder Radersma*, Daniel W.A. Noble, Tobias Uller*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

    52 Citations (Scopus)


    Phenotypic responses to a novel or extreme environment are initially plastic, only later to be followed by genetic change. Whether or not environmentally induced phenotypes are sufficiently recurrent and fit to leave a signature in adaptive evolution is debated. Here, we analyze multivariate data from 34 plant reciprocal transplant studies to test: (1) if plasticity is an adaptive source of developmental bias that makes locally adapted populations resemble the environmentally induced phenotypes of ancestors; and (2) if plasticity, standing phenotypic variation and genetic divergence align during local adaptation. Phenotypic variation increased marginally in foreign environments but, as predicted, the direction of ancestral plasticity was generally well aligned with the phenotypic difference between locally adapted populations, making plasticity appear to "take the lead" in adaptive evolution. Plastic responses were sometimes more extreme than the phenotypes of locally adapted plants, which can give the impression that plasticity and evolutionary adaptation oppose each other; however, environmentally induced and locally adapted phenotypes were rarely misaligned. Adaptive fine-tuning of phenotypes—genetic accommodation—did not fall along the main axis of standing phenotypic variation or the direction of plasticity, and local adaptation did not consistently modify the direction or magnitude of plasticity. These results suggest that plasticity is a persistent source of developmental bias that shapes how plant populations adapt to environmental change, even when plasticity does not constrain how populations respond to selection.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)360-370
    Number of pages11
    JournalEvolution Letters
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


    Dive into the research topics of 'Plasticity leaves a phenotypic signature during local adaptation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this