J Syst Evol ›› 2008, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (4): 441-451.DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1002.2008.07170

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Phenotypic plasticity: Eco-Devo and evolution

Le-Xuan GAO; Jia-Kuan CHEN; Ji YANG*   

  1. (Center for Evolutionary Biology, Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, China)jiyang@fudan.edu.cn
  • Received:2007-12-25 Published:2008-07-18

Abstract: Phenotypic plasticity refers to the ability of an organism to alter its physiology/morphology/behavior in response to changes in environmental conditions. Although encompassing various phenomena spanning multi-ple levels of organization, most plastic responses seem to take place by altering gene expression and eventually altering ontogenetic trajectory in response to environmental variation. Epigenetic modifications provide a plausi-ble link between the environment and alterations in gene expression, and the alterations in phenotype based on environmentally induced epigenetic modifications can be inherited transgenerationally. Even closely related species and populations with different genotypes may exhibit differences in the patterns and the extents of plastic responses, indicating the wide existence of plasticity genes which are independent of trait means and directly respond to environmental stimuli by triggering phenotypic changes. The ability of plasticity is not only able to affect the adaptive evolution of species significantly, but is also an outcome of evolutionary processes. Therefore, phenotypic plasticity is a potentially important molder of adaptation and evolution.

Key words: Eco-Devo, evolution, phenotypic plasticity