Developmental plasticity and evolvability
University of Lund, Sweden
Organisms have an impressive ability to accommodate environmental change. Populations of organisms show an equally impressive capacity to adapt. Yet, the relationship between plasticity and adaptive evolution remains poorly understood. Here, I show how the evolution of plasticity can make organisms more or less evolvable, and I explain when plastic responses will appear to ‘take the lead’ in adaptive evolution. I illustrate how predictions from this theory can be put to the test using experimental and comparative studies. Such studies demonstrate that our ability to explain and predict evolutionary patterns – such as diversification, adaptation, and convergence – can benefit from an understanding of the mechanisms of development.