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New Phytol. 2005 Apr;166(1):101-17.

Evolution of phenotypic plasticity: patterns of plasticity and the emergence of ecotypes.

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Evolutionary Population Biology, Utrecht University, Padualaan 8, NL-3584 CH Utrecht, the Netherlands.


Phenotypic plasticity itself evolves, as does any other quantitative trait. A very different question is whether phenotypic plasticity causes evolution or is a major evolutionary mechanism. Existing models of the evolution of phenotypic plasticity cover many of the proposals in the literature about the role of phenotypic plasticity in evolution. I will extend existing models to cover adaptation to a novel environment, the appearance of ecotypes and possible covariation between phenotypic plasticity and mean trait value of ecotypes. Genetic assimilation does not sufficiently explain details of observed patterns. Phenotypic plasticity as a major mechanism for evolution--such as, invading new niches, speciation or macroevolution--has, at present, neither empirical nor model support.

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