Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 243–253

Phenotypic plasticity as a state-dependent life-history decision

  • Alasdair I. Houston
  • John M. McNamara

DOI: 10.1007/BF02214164

Cite this article as:
Houston, A.I. & McNamara, J.M. Evol Ecol (1992) 6: 243. doi:10.1007/BF02214164


A genotype is said to show phenotypic plasticity if it can produce a range of environmentally dependent phenotypes. Plasticity may or may not be adaptive. We consider plasticity as a genetically determined trait and thus find the optimal response of an animal to its environment. Various aspects of this optimal response are illustrated with examples based on reproductive effort. We investigate the selection pressure for plastic as opposed to fixed strategies. An example with spatial heterogeneity is used to compare our approach with that of Stearns and Koella (1986).


phenotypic plasticitylife-history theoryclutch sizestate-dependent behaviour

Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alasdair I. Houston
    • 1
  • John M. McNamara
    • 2
  1. 1.NERC Unit of Behavioural Ecology, Department of ZoologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.School of MathematicsUniversity of BristolBristolUK