Reaction Norm Evolution (Visiting Scholar)
Project Summary - Understanding how organisms respond to environmental variation continues to be a fundamental question in biology. The study of variation in reaction norms (a figure depicting how genotypes respond across environments) has increased considerably since the 1980s, producing a now substantial literature. We propose to synthesize these data to investigate the details of how reaction norms evolve. Specifically we are investigating the question of whether particular attributes of the reaction norm are more likely to change as plasticity evolves. To do this we are building a database from the literature on phenotypic responses to environmental variation for pairs of closely related taxa (i.e., species, subspecies, ecotypes), begun as a component of our Costs of Plasticity working group. Following quantification of reaction norm differences between related taxa (slopes, intercepts, curvatures), we will employ meta-analysis and informatics tools to ask whether certain of these components are preferentially more evolutionarily labile. We will also determine whether there are differences between groups of organisms (e.g. plants vs. animals) or types of traits (e.g. life history vs. morphological) in patterns of reaction norm differences.