Environmental heterogeneity does not affect levels of phenotypic plasticity in natural populations of three Drosophila species

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Adaptation of natural populations to variable environmental conditions may occur by changes in trait means and/or in the levels of plasticity. Theory predicts that environmental heterogeneity favors plasticity of adaptive traits. Here we investigated the performance in several traits of three sympatric Drosophila species freshly collected in two environments that differ in the heterogeneity of environmental conditions. Differences in trait means within species were found in several traits, indicating that populations differed in their evolutionary response to the environmental conditions of their origin. Different species showed distinct adaptation with a very different role of plasticity across species for coping with environmental changes. However, geographically distinct populations of the same species generally displayed the same levels of plasticity as induced by fluctuating thermal regimes. This indicates a weak and trait-specific effect of environmental heterogeneity on plasticity. Furthermore, similar levels of plasticity were found in a laboratory-adapted population of Drosophila melanogaster with a common geographic origin but adapted to the laboratory conditions for more than 100 generations. Thus, this study does not confirm theoretical predictions on the degree of adaptive plasticity among populations in relation to environmental heterogeneity but shows a very distinct role of species-specific plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume7
Issue8
Pages (from-to)2716-2724
Number of pages9
ISSN2045-7758
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017

    Research areas

  • laboratory adaptation, local adaptation, stress resistance, temperature fluctuation, EXPERIMENTAL EVOLUTION, THERMAL PLASTICITY, STRESS TOLERANCE, LIFE-HISTORY, WING SIZE, TEMPERATURE, MELANOGASTER, ADAPTATION, SIMULANS, LIMITS

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