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The Evolution of Phenotypic Plasticity in Life-History Traits: Predictions of Reaction Norms for Age and Size at Maturity

Stephen C. Stearns and Jacob C. Koella
Evolution
Vol. 40, No. 5 (Sep., 1986), pp. 893-913
DOI: 10.2307/2408752
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2408752
Page Count: 21
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Evolution of Phenotypic Plasticity in Life-History Traits: Predictions of Reaction Norms for Age and Size at Maturity
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Abstract

We used life-history theory to predict reaction norms for age and size at maturation. We assumed that fecundity increases with size and that juvenile mortality rates of offspring decrease as ages-at-maturity of parents increase, then calculated the reaction norm by varying growth rate and calculating an optimal age at maturity for each growth rate. The reaction norm for maturation should take one of at least four shapes that depend on specific relations between changes in growth rates and changes in adult mortality rates, juvenile mortality rates, or both. Most organisms should mature neither at a fixed size nor at a fixed age, but along an age-size trajectory. The model makes possible a clear distinction between the genetic and phenotypic components of variation. The evolved response to selection is reflected in the shape and position of the reaction norm. The phenotypic response of a single organism to rapid or slow growth is defined by the location of its maturation event as a point on the reaction norm. A quantitative test with data from 19 populations and species of fish showed that predictions were in good agreement with observations (r = 0.93, P < 0.0001). The predictions of the model also agreed qualitatively with observed phenotypic variation in age and size at maturity in humans, platyfish, fruit flies, and red deer. This preliminary success suggests that experiments designed to test the predictions directly will be worthwhile.

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