The evolution of age-dependent plasticity

Fischer B, van Doorn GS, & Dieckmann U (2014). The evolution of age-dependent plasticity. The American Naturalist 183 (1): 108-125. DOI:10.1086/674008.

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Abstract

When organisms encounter environments that are heterogeneous in time, phenotypic plasticity is often favored by selection. The degree of such plasticity can vary during an organism's lifetime, but the factors promoting differential plastic responses at different ages or life stages remain poorly understood. Here we develop and analyze an evolutionary model to investigate how environmental information is optimally collected and translated into phenotypic adjustments at different ages. We demonstrate that plasticity must often be expected to vary with age in a nonmonotonic fashion. Early in life, it is generally optimal to delay phenotypic adjustments until sufficient information has been collected about the state of the environment to warrant a costly phenotypic adjustment. Toward the end of life, phenotypic adjustments are disfavored as well because their beneficial effects can no longer be fully reaped before death. Our analysis clarifies how patterns of age-dependent plasticity are shaped by the interplay of environmental uncertainty, the accuracy of perceived information, and the costs of phenotypic adjustments with life-history determinants such as the relative strengths of fecundity and viability selection experienced by the organism over its lifetime. We conclude by comparing our results with expectations for alternative mechanisms, including developmental constraints, that promote age-dependent plasticity.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Developmental plasticity; Plasticity windows; Reaction norms; Eco-Evo-Devo; Information sampling; Dynamic optimization
Research Programs: Evolution and Ecology (EEP)
Bibliographic Reference: The American Naturalist; 183(1):108-125 (January 2014) (Published online 12 November 2013)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 08:51
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2016 11:54
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/11038

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