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Edited By: TN Ananthakrishnan and Douglas Whitman
210 pages, Illus, figs
Evolution has long been thought to occur primarily as a result of natural selection acting on existing genetic variation. However, this model is misleading, because natural selection acts not on genes, but on phenotypes. This is a critical concept, because phenotypes are determined, in part, by the environment. Indeed, all organisms exhibit phenotypic plasticity - the expression of different phenotypes in single genotype when subjected to different environments. Environments influence organismal development inducing different and permanent developmental outcomes. Organisms can also respond immediately to environmental factors with rapid and reversible changes in behavior, physiology, morphology, and life history. These short or long-term environmentally induced changes can have profound consequences for fitness. Hence, the environment serves a dual role in evolution: it may both generate phenotypic variation, and select among that variation. Thus, phenotypic plasticity plays an important role in evolution.
In Volume I of Insect Phenotypic Plasticity, the plasticity inherent in insects is documented. Phenotypically plastic traits include morphological, behavioral, and physiological characteristics. These environmentally induced differences can serve as the raw products upon which natural selection acts. Phenotypic plasticity in short deserves increased attention by those involved in studies on biological diversity and is of practical concern for agricultural and medical Entomology.
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