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PHENOTYPIC PLASTICITY AND NORMS OF REACTION Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of individuals to alter its physiology, morphology and/or behavior in response to a change in the environmental conditions. This is clearly demonstrated by the appearance of plants grown at different densities: crowded plants look spindly and lanky, uncrowded plants look healthy and robust. In the context of evolution, phenotypic plasticity demonstrates the two meanings of adaptation: the plastic response is itself an example of a physiological adaptation and it is widely held that the ability to be plastic is adaptive in the sense of increasing fitness. In thinking about phenotypic plasticity as a evolutionary adaptation it is important to
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Unformatted text preview: separate the trait in question from the plasticity for that trait . For example: growing taller in response to plant crowding is adaptive in the sense that it increases an individual's competitive ability for sunlight (lower fitness when shaded by other plants). The "normal" height for a plant (lets assume there is such a thing) may have evolved in response to pressures to allocate resources to growth versus reproduction in a particular way. Thus there is a genetic basis for plasticity of plant height, and a genetic basis for plant height itself . The point is that different genes probably control these processes so the trait and its plasticity can (as opposed to must ) evolve independently....
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