Generalized Norms of Reaction for Ecological Developmental Biology

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Sarkar, Sahotra; Fuller, Trevon
preprint description
A standard norm of reaction (NoR) is a graphical depiction of the phenotypic value of some trait of an individual genotype in a population as a function of an environmental parameter. NoRs thus depict the phenotypic plasticity of a trait. The topological properties of NoRs for sets of different genotypes can be used to infer the presence of (non-linear) genotype-environment interactions. While it is clear that many NoRs are adaptive, it is not yet settled whether their evolutionary etiology should be explained by selection on the mean phenotypic trait values in different environments or whether there are specific genes conferring plasticity. If the second alternative is true the NoR is itself an object of selection. Generalized NoRs depict plasticity at the level of populations or subspecies within a species, species within a genus, or taxa at higher levels. Historically, generalized NoRs have routinely been drawn though rarely explicitly recognized as such. Such generalized NoRs can be used to make evolutionary inferences at higher taxonomic levels in a way analagous to how standard NoRs are used for microevolutionary inferences.