Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 243-253

First online:

Phenotypic plasticity as a state-dependent life-history decision

  • Alasdair I. HoustonAffiliated withNERC Unit of Behavioural Ecology, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
  • , John M. McNamaraAffiliated withSchool of Mathematics, University of Bristol

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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 plasticity life-history theory clutch size state-dependent behaviour