Phenotypic plasticity and longevity in plants and animals: cause and effect?
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- Borges, R.M. J Biosci (2009) 34: 605. doi:10.1007/s12038-009-0078-3
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Immobile plants and immobile modular animals outlive unitary animals. This paper discusses competing but not necessarily mutually exclusive theories to explain this extreme longevity, especially from the perspective of phenotypic plasticity. Stem cell immortality, vascular autonomy, and epicormic branching are some important features of the phenotypic plasticity of plants that contribute to their longevity. Monocarpy versus polycarpy can also influence the kind of senescent processes experienced by plants. How density-dependent phenomena affecting the establishment of juveniles in these immobile organisms can influence the evolution of senescence, and consequently longevity, is reviewed and discussed. Whether climate change scenarios will favour long-lived or short-lived organisms, with their attendant levels of plasticity, is also presented.