Phenotypic plasticity: an evolving plant character



Phenotypic plasticity is an important mode of adaptation to temporal and spatial environmental variability, particularly in plants. Although data are available concerning interspecific differences in the sizes and shapes of characters, there is little information concerning differences between taxa for the plastic responses of those characters. We have measured: (1) the mean value of a character, (2) the amount of character plasticity, and (3) the pattern of phenotypic plasticity for species in five genera, and calculated the divergences among species for each of these three measures. We compared the divergences of these measures to address the question of whether there is a relationship between the evolution of the character means of species and the evolution of the plasticities of those characters. We found that the evolutionary divergence of character plasticities could be independent of the interspecific divergence of character means. There was, however, a tendency for the divergence of amounts and patterns of plasticity to be related.