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Keywords:

  • Phenotypic plasticity;
  • quantitative genetic model;
  • reaction norm

Abstract

We present a general quantitative genetic model for the evolution of reaction norms. This model goes beyond previous models by simultaneously permitting any shaped reaction norm and allowing for the imposition of genetic constraints. Earlier models are shown to be special cases of our general model; we discuss in detail models involving just two macroenvironments, linear reaction norms, and quadratic reaction norms. The model predicts that, for the case of a temporally varying environment, a population will converge on (1) the genotype with the maximum mean geometric fitness over all environments, (2) a linear reaction norm whose slope is proportional to the covariance between the environment of development and the environment of selection, and (3) a linear reaction norm even if nonlinear reaction norms are possible. An examination of experimental studies finds some limited support for these predictions. We discuss the limitations of our model and the need for more realistic gametic models and additional data on the genetic and developmental bases of plasticity.