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Selection on Heritable Phenotypic Plasticity in a Wild Bird Population

Science  14 Oct 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5746, pp. 304-306
DOI: 10.1126/science.1117004

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Abstract

Theoretical and laboratory research suggests that phenotypic plasticity can evolve under selection. However, evidence for its evolutionary potential from the wild is lacking. We present evidence from a Dutch population of great tits (Parus major) for variation in individual plasticity in the timing of reproduction, and we show that this variation is heritable. Selection favoring highly plastic individuals has intensified over a 32-year period. This temporal trend is concurrent with climate change causing a mismatch between the breeding times of the birds and their caterpillar prey. Continued selection on plasticity can act to alleviate this mismatch.

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