Monday, January 9, 2012

Lab-meeting on the evolution of plasticity in changing environments

This Wednesday (January 11 2012), we will discuss a relatively recent theoretical and conceptual paper in PLoS Biology entitled "Adaptation, plasticity and extinction in a changing environment: towards a predictive theory".  You can download it here.

Although this paper was published as recently as in 2010, but has already received 79 citations - a sign of a quite an influential paper. This is not surprising as it connects such topics as climate change, thermal adaptation and niche modelling with the evolution of phenotypic plasticity - all very important and central topics in ecology and evoutionary biology. Below you will find the Abstract for the paper. One of the co-authors is legendary evolutionary quantitative geneticist Russel Lande, by the way.

Time: Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Place: "Argumentet"



Many species are experiencing sustained environmental change mainly due to human activities. The unusual rate and extent of anthropogenic alterations of the environment may exceed the capacity of developmental, genetic, and demographic mechanisms that populations have evolved to deal with environmental change. To begin to understand the limits to population persistence, we present a simple evolutionary model for the critical rate of environmental change beyond which a population must decline and go extinct. We use this model to highlight the major determinants of extinction risk in a changing environment, and identify research needs for improved predictions based on projected changes in environmental variables. Two key parameters relating the environment to population biology have not yet received sufficient attention. Phenotypic plasticity, the direct influence of environment on the development of individual phenotypes, is increasingly considered an important component of phenotypic change in the wild and should be incorporated in models of population persistence. Environmental sensitivity of selection, the change in the optimum phenotype with the environment, still crucially needs empirical assessment. We use environmental tolerance curves and other examples of ecological and evolutionary responses to climate change to illustrate how these mechanistic approaches can be developed for predictive purposes.

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