Population Ecology

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 5–14 | Cite as

Rapid adaptation: a new dimension for evolutionary perspectives in ecology

  • Masakazu ShimadaEmail author
  • Yumiko Ishii
  • Harunobu Shibao
Special Feature: Review Rapid Adaptation


Although the study of adaptation is central to biology, two types of adaptation are recognized in the biological field: physiological adaptation (accommodation or acclimation; an individual organism’s phenotype is adjusted to its environment) and evolutionary–biological adaptation (adaptation is shaped by natural selection acting on genetic variation). The history of the former concept dates to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and has more recently been systemized in the twenty-first century. Approaches to the understanding of phenotypic plasticity and learning behavior have only recently been developed, based on cellular–histological and behavioral–neurobiological techniques as well as traditional molecular biology. New developments of the former concepts in phenotypic plasticity are discussed in bacterial persistence, wing di-/polymorphism with transgenerational effects, polyphenism in social insects, and defense traits for predator avoidance, including molecular biology analyses. We also discuss new studies on the concept of genetic accommodation resulting in evolution of phenotypic plasticity through a transgenerational change in the reaction norm based on a threshold model. Learning behavior can also be understood as physiological phenotypic plasticity, associating with the brain–nervous system, and it drives the accelerated evolutionary change in behavioral response (the Baldwin effect) with memory stock. Furthermore, choice behaviors are widely seen in decision-making of animal foragers. Incorporating flexible phenotypic plasticity and learning behavior into modeling can drastically change dynamical behavior of the system. Unification of biological sciences will be facilitated and integrated, such as behavioral ecology and behavioral neurobiology in the area of learning, and evolutionary ecology and molecular developmental biology in the theme of phenotypic plasticity.


Behavioral neurobiology Choice behavior Genetic accommodation Memory and learning Phenotypic plasticity Predation switching 



The authors are grateful to the Chief-in-Editor, Dr. T. Saitoh of Hokkaido University, and the editorial office, Ms M. Tanigawa, for supporting this symposium in the present issue, especially our long review. Special thanks should be given to Dr. T. Miura of Hokkaido University and Dr. K. Fujisaki of Kyoto University for kindly advising on the many important publications that we should cite. This research was supported in part by the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, Grant-in-Aids for Scientific Research (B) 20370008.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Masakazu Shimada
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yumiko Ishii
    • 1
  • Harunobu Shibao
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Systems SciencesUniversity of TokyoTokyoJapan

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