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Niche specialization influence adaptive phenotypic plasticity in the threespine stickleback
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Limnology.
Biodiversity Research Centre and Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
2012 (English)In: American Naturalist, ISSN 0003-0147, E-ISSN 1537-5323, Vol. 180, no 1, 50-59 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Phenotypic plasticity may be favored in generalist populations if it increases niche width, even in temporally constant environments. Phenotypic plasticity can increase the frequency of extreme phenotypes in a population and thus allow it to make use of a wide resource spectrum. Here we test the prediction that generalist populations should be more plastic than specialists. In a common-garden experiment, we show that solitary, generalist populations of threespine sticklebacks inhabiting small coastal lakes of British Columbia have a higher degree of morphological plasticity than the more specialized sympatric limnetic and benthic species. The ancestral marine stickleback showed low levels of plasticity similar to those of sympatric sticklebacks, implying that the greater plasticity of the generalist population has evolved recently. Measurements of wild populations show that those with mean trait values intermediate between the benthic and limnetic values indeed have higher morphological variation. Our data indicate that plasticity can evolve rapidly after colonization of a new environment in response to changing niche use.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 180, no 1, 50-59 p.
Keyword [en]
phenotypic plasticity, adaptation, niche variation hypothesis, character displacement, evolution
National Category
Evolutionary Biology
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-190922DOI: 10.1086/666000OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-190922DiVA: diva2:584482
Available from: 2013-01-09 Created: 2013-01-09 Last updated: 2013-01-09Bibliographically approved

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