The Adaptive Advantage of Phenotypic Memory in Changing Environments

Eva Jablonka, Beata Oborny, Istvan Molnar, Eva Kisdi, Josef Hofbauer, Tamas Czaran


The adaptive value of carry-over effects, the persistence of induced phenotypes for several generations despite the change in the conditions that first induced these phenotypes, is studied in the framework of a simple model. Three different organismal strategies - non-inducible (genetic), completely inducible (plastic), and intermediate (carry-over) - are compared in fitness terms within three different environments. Analytical results and numerical simulations show that carry-over effects can have an advantage in stochastic environments even over organisms with high adaptive plasticity. We argue that carry-over effects represent an adaptive mechanism on the ecological timescale that fills the gap between short-term individual adaptations and long-term evolutionary adaptations. An extension of the concept of plasticity to incorporate the time dimension and include the stability of induced phenotypes through both clonal and sexual generations, is suggested.

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