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Evolution. 2005 Jun;59(6):1237-44.

Evolution of the environmental component of the phenotypic variance: stabilizing selection in changing environments and the cost of homogeneity.

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Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, United Kingdom.


Quantitative traits show abundant genetic, environmental, and phenotypic variance, yet if they are subject to stabilizing selection for an optimal phenotype, both the genetic and environmental components are expected to decline. The mechanisms that determine the level and maintenance of phenotypic variance are not yet fully understood. While there has been extensive study of mechanisms maintaining genetic variability, it has generally been assumed that environmental variance is not dependent on the genotype and therefore not subject to change. However, accumulating data suggest that the environmental variance is under some degree of genetic control. In this study, it is assumed accordingly that both the genotypic value (i.e., mean phenotypic value) and the variance of phenotypic value given genotypic value depend on the genotype. Two models are investigated as potentially able to explain the protected maintenance of environmental variance of quantitative traits under stabilizing selection. One is varying environment among generations, such that both the optimal phenotype and the strength of the stabilizing selection vary between generations. The other is the cost of homogeneity, which is based on an assumption of an engineering cost of minimizing variability in development. It is shown that a small homogeneity cost is enough to maintain the observed levels of environmental variance, whereas a large amount of temporal variation in the optimal phenotype and the strength of selection would be necessary.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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