Natural selection mediated by seasonal time constraints increases the alignment between evolvability and developmental plasticity.


Johansson F(1), Watts PC(2), Sniegula S(3), Berger D(1).
Author information:
(1)Department of Ecology and Genetics, Animal Ecology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, 752 36, Sweden.
(2)Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, 40014, Finland.
(3)Department of Ecosystem Conservation, Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish Academy of Sciences, Krakow, 31-120, Poland.


Phenotypic plasticity can either hinder or promote adaptation to novel environments. Recent studies that have quantified alignments between plasticity, genetic variation, and divergence propose that such alignments may reflect constraints that bias future evolutionary trajectories. Here, we emphasize that such alignments may themselves be a result of natural selection and do not necessarily indicate constraints on adaptation. We estimated developmental plasticity and broad sense genetic covariance matrices (G) among damselfly populations situated along a latitudinal gradient in Europe. Damselflies were reared at photoperiod treatments that simulated the seasonal time constraints experienced at northern (strong constraints) and southern (relaxed constraints) latitudes. This allowed us to partition the effects of (1) latitude, (2) photoperiod, and (3) environmental novelty on G and its putative alignment with adaptive plasticity and divergence. Environmental novelty and latitude did not affect G, but photoperiod did. Photoperiod increased evolvability in the direction of observed adaptive divergence and developmental plasticity when G was assessed under strong seasonal time constraints at northern (relative to southern) photoperiod. Because selection and adaptation under time constraints is well understood in Lestes damselflies, our results suggest that natural selection can shape the alignment between divergence, plasticity, and evolvability.