Testing the role of phenotypic plasticity for local adaptation: growth and development in time-constrainedRana temporariapopulations

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Abstract

Phenotypic plasticity can be important for local adaptation, because it enables individuals to survive in a novel environment until genetic changes have been accumulated by genetic accommodation. By analysing the relationship between development rate and growth rate, it can be determined whether plasticity in life-history traits is caused by changed physiology or behaviour. We extended this to examine whether plasticity had been aiding local adaptation, by investigating whether the plastic response had been fixed in locally adapted populations. Tadpoles from island populations of Rana temporaria, locally adapted to different pool-drying regimes, were monitored in a common garden. Individual differences in development rate were caused by different foraging efficiency. However, developmental plasticity was physiologically mediated by trading off growth against development rate. Surprisingly, plasticity has not aided local adaptation to time-stressed environments, because local adaptation was not caused by genetic assimilation but on selection on the standing genetic variation in development time.

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