Organisms can often respond adaptively to a change in their environment through phenotypic plasticity in multiple traits, a phenomenon termed as multivariate plasticity. These different plastic responses could interact and affect each other's development as well as selection on each other, but the causes and consequences of these interactions have received relatively little attention. Here, we propose a new conceptual framework for understanding how different plastic responses can affect each other's development and why organisms should have multiple plastic responses. A plastic change in one trait could alter the phenotype of a second plastic trait by changing either the cue received by the organism (cue-mediated effect) or the response to that cue (response-mediated effect). Multivariate plasticity could benefit the organism either because the plastic responses work better when expressed together (synergy) or because each response is more effective under different environmental circumstances (complementarity). We illustrate these hypotheses with case studies, focusing on interactions between behavior and morphology, plastic traits that differ in their reversibility. Future empirical and theoretical research should investigate the consequences of these interactions for additional factors important for the evolution of plasticity, such as the limits and costs of plasticity.
- multivariate plasticity
- phenotypic plasticity
- reaction norm
- reversible plasticity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)