Mechanisms by which phenotypic plasticity affects adaptive divergence and ecological speciation

Nonaka, E., Svanbaeck, R., Thibert-Plante, X., Englund, G., & Brännström, Å. (2015). Mechanisms by which phenotypic plasticity affects adaptive divergence and ecological speciation. The American Naturalist 186 (5) E126-E143. 10.1086/683231.

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Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of one genotype to produce different phenotypes depending on envronmental conditions. Several conceptual models emphasize the role of plasticity in promoting reproductive isolation and, ultimately, speciation in populations that forage on two or more resources. These models predict that plasticity plays a critical role in the ealy stages of speciation, prior to genetic divergence, by facilitating fast phenotypic divergence. The ability to plastically express alternative phenotypes may, however, interfere with the early phase of the formation of reproductive barriers, especially in the absence of geographic barriers. Here, we quantitatively investigate mechanisms under which plasticity can influence progress toward adaptive genetic diversification and ecological speciation. We use a stochastic, individual-based model of a predator-prey system incorporting sexual reproduction and mate choice in the predator. Our results show that evolving plasticity promotes the evolution of reproductive isolation under diversifying environments when individuals are able to correctly select a more profitable habitat with respect to their phenotypes (i.e.,- adaptive habitat choice) and to assortatively mate with relatively similar phenotypes. On the other hand, plasticity facilitates the evolution of plastic generalists when individuals have a limited capacity for adaptive habitat choice. We conclude that plasticity can accelerate the evolution of a reproductive barrier toward adaptive diversification and ecological speciation through enhanced phenotypic differentiation between diverging phenotypes.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Assortative mating; Eco-evolutionary dynamics; Ecological speciation; Habitat choice; Individual-base model; Phenotypic plasticity
Research Programs: Evolution and Ecology (EEP)
Bibliographic Reference: American Naturalist; 186(5):E126-E143 [November 2015]
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 08:52
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:24

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