The evolution of trade-offs: testing predictions on response to selection and environmental variation

Evolution. 2002 Jan;56(1):84-95. doi: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2002.tb00851.x.


The concept of phenotypic trade-offs is a central element in evolutionary theory. In general, phenotypic models assume a fixed trade-off function, whereas quantitative genetic theory predicts that the trade-off function will change as a result of selection. For a linear trade-off function selection will readily change the intercept but will have to be relatively stronger to change the slope. We test these predictions by examining the trade-off between fecundity and flight capability, as measured by dorso-longitudinal muscle mass, in four different populations of the sand cricket, Gryllus firmus. Three populations were recently derived from the wild, and the fourth had been in the laboratory for 19 years. We hypothesized that the laboratory population had most likely undergone more and different selection from the three wild populations and therefore should differ from these in respect to both slope and intercept. Because of geographic variation in selection, we predicted a general difference in intercept among the four populations. We further tested the hypothesis that this intercept will be correlated with proportion macropterous and that this relationship will itself vary with environmental conditions experienced during both the nymphal and adult period. Observed variation in the phenotypic trade-off was consistent with the predictions of the quantitative genetic model. These results point to the importance of modeling trade-offs as dynamic rather than static relationships. We discuss how phenotypic models can incorporate such variation. The phenotypic trade-off between fecundity and dorso-longitudinal muscle mass is determined in part by variation in body size, illustrating the necessity of considering trade-offs to be multi factorial rather than simply bivariate relationships.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Female
  • Gryllidae / genetics*
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Phenotype