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Proc Biol Sci. 1990 Dec 22;242(1305):181-7.

A polygenic model for the evolution and maintenance of conditional strategies.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana 46135.


We develop a genetic model for conditional strategies which places such strategies in the context of phenotypic plasticity. The model, which treats conditional strategies as polygenic threshold traits, indicates that, given requisite genetic variation in reaction norms, conditional strategies will evolve to their optimum level and be maintained by stabilizing selection, provided environmental variation results in a fitness trade-off for the alternative conditional phenotypes. The precise value for the evolutionary optimum is found to depend primarily on the probability density function of the environmental variation that influences the production of the conditional phenotypes and the magnitude of the fitness trade-offs of the conditional phenotypes across such environmental variation. The model is tested by application to three well-studied conditional strategies. In each case the predictions of the model are in good agreement with the results of these studies.

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