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Phenotypic plasticity can reverse the relative extent of intra and interspecific variability across a thermal gradient

Citation

Jacob, Staffan; Legrand, Delphine (2021), Phenotypic plasticity can reverse the relative extent of intra and interspecific variability across a thermal gradient, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.s1rn8pk73

Abstract

Intra and interspecific variability can both ensure ecosystem functions. Generalizing the effects of individual and species assemblages requires understanding how much within and between species trait variation is genetically-based or results from phenotypic plasticity. Phenotypic plasticity can indeed lead to rapid and important changes of trait distributions, and in turn community functionality, depending on environmental conditions, which raises a crucial question: could phenotypic plasticity modify the relative importance of intra and interspecific variability along environmental gradients? We quantified the fundamental niche of five genotypes in monocultures for each of five ciliate species along a wide thermal gradient in standardized conditions to assess the importance of phenotypic plasticity for the level of intraspecific variability compared to differences between species. We showed that phenotypic plasticity strongly influences trait variability and reverses the relative extent of intra and interspecific variability along the thermal gradient. Our results show that phenotypic plasticity may lead to either increase or decrease of functional trait variability along environmental gradients, making intra and interspecific variability highly dynamic components of ecological systems.

Methods

We quantified the fundamental niche of five genotypes in monocultures for each of five ciliate species along a wide thermal gradient in standardized conditions to assess the importance of phenotypic plasticity for the level of intraspecific variability compared to differences between species.