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Data from: Adaptive phenotypic plasticity for life-history and less fitness-related traits


Acasuso-Rivero, Cristina; Murren, Courtney J.; Schlichting, Carl D.; Steiner, Ulrich Karl (2019), Data from: Adaptive phenotypic plasticity for life-history and less fitness-related traits, Dryad, Dataset,


Organisms are faced with variable environments and one of the most common solutions to cope with such variability is phenotypic plasticity, a modification of the phenotype to the environment. These modifications are commonly modelled in evolutionary theories as adaptive, influencing ecological and evolutionary processes. If plasticity is adaptive, we would predict that the closer to fitness a trait is, the less plastic it would be. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a meta-analysis of 213 studies and measured the plasticity of each reported trait as a coefficient of variation (CV). Traits were categorised as closer to fitness - life-history traits (LHt) including reproduction and survival related-traits, and farther from fitness - non-life-history traits (N-LHt) including traits related to development, metabolism and physiology, morphology and behaviour. Our results showed, unexpectedly, that although traits differed in their amounts of plasticity, trait plasticity was not related to its proximity to fitness. These findings were independent of taxonomic groups or environmental types assessed. We caution against general expectations that plasticity is adaptive, as assumed by many models of its evolution. More studies are needed that test the adaptive nature of plasticity, and additional theoretical explorations on adaptive and non-adaptive plasticity are encouraged.

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