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Ancestral genetic variation in phenotypic plasticity underlies rapid evolutionary changes in resurrected populations of waterfleas

Citation

Walsh, Matthew; Landy, J. Alex; Oschmann, Alixander; Munch, Stephan (2020), Ancestral genetic variation in phenotypic plasticity underlies rapid evolutionary changes in resurrected populations of waterfleas, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.h70rxwdh0

Abstract

The role that phenotypic plasticity plays in adaptive evolution has been debated for decades. This is because the strength of natural selection is dependent upon the direction and magnitude of phenotypic responses to environmental signals. Therefore, the connection between plasticity and adaptation will depend on the patterns of plasticity harbored by ancestral populations prior to a change in the environment. Yet, few studies have directly assessed ancestral variation in plasticity and tracked phenotypic changes over time. Here we resurrected historic propagules of Daphnia spanning multiple species and lakes in Wisconsin following the invasion and proliferation of a novel predator (spiny waterflea, Bythotrephes longimanus). This approach revealed extensive genetic variation in predator-induced plasticity in ancestral populations of Daphnia. It is unlikely that the standing patterns of plasticity shielded Daphnia from selection to permit long-term coexistence with a novel predator. Instead, this variation in plasticity provided the raw materials for Bythotrephes-mediated selection to drive rapid shifts in Daphnia behavior and life history. Surprisingly, there was little evidence for the evolution of trait plasticity as genetic variation in plasticity was maintained in the face of a novel predator. Such results provide new insights into the link between plasticity and adaptation and highlight the importance of quantifying genetic variation in plasticity when evaluating the drivers of evolutionary change in the wild.