The evolution of reaction norms: simple models for age and size at maturity


Corresponding author: Current address, Department of Zoology NJ-15, University of Washington, Seattle WA 98195, USA.


This paper presents a simple model for the evolution of reaction norms for age and size at maturity that predicts reaction norms with a variety of shapes. Using realistic parameter values the model predicts reaction norms close to those observed in Drosophila. The major assumptions of the model are: 1) that net reproductive rate is maximized, 2) that growth is determinate, and 3) that mortality rates are independent of age and size at maturity. If, additionally, juvenile mortality is uncorrelated with a growth coefficient, k, the model predicts that selection favors maturation later at a smaller size when k is reduced by environmental factors and that decreased juvenile mortality leads to delayed maturity. These two predictions conform with those found by previous models using other measures of fitness. Correlations between k and juvenile mortality can change the shape of the predicted reaction norm. Depending on the precise form of the correlation, the model can predict done- or bowl-shaped reaction norms and can predict delayed or earlier maturity as k decreases. These shapes are qualitatively different from those predicted by previous models that used different fitness measures. Systematic estimates of the parameter values for this and for related models are required to determine the appropriate fitness measure for models of reaction norms.