Meeting Abstract

S8-1.1  Friday, Jan. 6  Introduction to the Symposium: Assessing the Role of Developmental Plasticity in Evolutionary Innovation and Diversification WUND, Matthew/A; The College of New Jersey

Conventional thinking proposes that the environment has a single function in adaptive evolution: to supply the selective pressures that shape phenotypic and genetic variation across generations. In addition to this role, however, the environment also impacts the phenotypic variation upon which those selective pressures act because of individual phenotypic plasticity. Recent conceptual and theoretical models support the hypothesis that the form of, and variation among, plastic responses in a population can substantially impact both the rate and outcome of adaptive evolution. However, empirical tests of this hypothesis remain elusive because any impacts of phenotypic plasticity on the early stages of adaptive evolution will likely be transient, and thus difficult to document. The focus of this talk will be to highlight recent advances in overcoming this challenge, with particular emphasis on using the threespine stickleback fish as a model system. I will also discuss future research avenues that apply to a number of potentially informative systems, such as invasive species and natural populations impacted by anthropogenic activity, in an effort to help empirical evidence keep pace with theory.