1st Edition

Phenotypic Plasticity & Evolution
Causes, Consequences, Controversies

Edited By

David W. Pfennig

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after June 1, 2021
ISBN 9780367357047
June 1, 2021 Forthcoming by CRC Press
488 Pages 34 Color & 29 B/W Illustrations

USD $220.00

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Book Description

Phenotypic plasticity – the ability of an individual organism to alter its features in direct response to a change in its environment – is ubiquitous. Understanding how and why this phenomenon exists is crucial because it unites all levels of biological inquiry. This book brings together researchers who approach plasticity from diverse perspectives to explore new ideas and recent findings about the causes and consequences of plasticity. Contributors also discuss such controversial topics as how plasticity shapes ecological and evolutionary processes; whether specific plastic responses can be passed to offspring; and whether plasticity has left an important imprint on the history of life. Importantly, each chapter highlights key questions for future research. Drawing on numerous studies of plasticity in natural populations of plants and animals, this book aims to foster greater appreciation for this important, but frequently misunderstood phenomenon.

Key Features

  • Written in an accessible style with numerous illustrations, including many in color
  • Reviews the history of the study of plasticity, including Darwin’s views
  • Most chapters conclude with recommendations for future research

Table of Contents

Foreword: A Perspective on Plasticity

Mary Jane West-Eberhard

Preface and Acknowledgements

David W. Pfennig


Section I Plasticity & Evolution: Concepts & Questions

Phenotypic Plasticity as an Intrinsic Property of Organisms

Sonia E. Sultan

"There is Hardly Any Question in Biology of More Importance"––Charles Darwin and the Nature of Variation

James T. Costa

Key Questions about Phenotypic Plasticity

David W. Pfennig

Section II Causes of Plasticity: From Genes to Ecology

Genetic Variation in Phenotypic Plasticity

Ilan Goldstein & Ian M. Ehrenreich

Physiological Mechanisms and the Evolution of Plasticity

Cristina C. Ledon-Rettig & Erik J. Ragsdale

Ecology and the Evolution of Plasticity

Emilie Snell-Rood & Sean Ehlman

The Loss of Phenotypic Plasticity via Natural Selection: Genetic Assimilation

Samuel M. Scheiner & Nicholas A. Levis

Section III Consequences of Plasticity: Adaptation, Origination, Diversification

Buying Time: Plasticity and Population Persistence

Sarah E. Diamond & Ryan A. Martin

Innovation and Diversification via Plasticity-led Evolution

Nicholas A. Levis & David W. Pfennig

Plasticity and Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality

Dinah R. Davison & Richard E. Michod

Phenotypic Plasticity in the Fossil Record

Adrian M. Lister

Section IV Plasticity & Evolution: Controversies & Consensus

The Special Case of Behavioral Plasticity?

Kathryn Chenard & Renee A. Duckworth

Plasticity Across Generations

Russell Bonduriansky

How Does Phenotypic Plasticity Fit into Evolutionary Theory?

Douglas J. Futuyma

Plasticity and Evolutionary Theory: Where We Are and Where We Should be Going

Carl D. Schlichting

List of Contributors


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David W. Pfennig was the Caroline & Thomas Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education, Dept. of Biology, University of North Carolina and the Director, Royster Society of Fellows, The Graduate School, UNC. He is broadly interested in the interplay between evolution, ecology, and development and focuses on three main topics. 1) The causes and consequences of a common feature of development: its tendency to be responsive to changes in the environment. This research seeks to understand the impacts of developmental plasticity on diversification and evolutionary innovation, as well as how and why plasticity arises in the first place. 2) The role of competition in generating and maintaining biodiversity. And 3) a striking form of convergent evolution known as Batesian mimicry, which evolves when a palatable species co-opts a warning signal from a dangerous species and thereby deceives its potential predators. He is the author or co-author of over 100 peer reviewed scholarly journal articles and book chapters. In addition he authored a book: Evolution’s Wedge: Competition and the Origins of Diversity.