Balancing sampling and specialization: an adaptationist model of incremental development
Number of pages
SourceProceedings of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences, 278, 1724, (2011), pp. 3558-3565
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI ON
Proceedings of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences
Development is typically a constructive process, in which phenotypes incrementally adapt to local ecologies. Here, we present a novel model in which natural selection shapes developmental systems based on the evolutionary ecology, and these systems adaptively guide phenotypic development. We assume that phenotypic construction is incremental and trades off with sampling cues to the environmental state. We computed the optimal developmental programmes across a range of evolutionary ecological conditions. Using these programmes, we simulated distributions of mature phenotypes. Our results show that organisms sample the environment most extensively when cues are moderately, not highly, informative. When the developmental programme relies heavily on sampling, individuals transition from sampling to specialization at different times in ontogeny, depending on the consistency of their sampled cue set; this finding suggests that stochastic sampling may result in individual differences in plasticity itself. In addition, we find that different selection pressures may favour similar developmental mechanisms, and that organisms may incorrectly calibrate development despite stable ontogenetic environments. We hope our model will stimulate adaptationist research on the constructive processes guiding development.
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