Variation in Caenorhabditis elegans dauer larva formation

Dev Growth Differ. 2003 Aug;45(4):389-96. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-169x.2003.00703.x.


Dauer larvae of Caenorhabditis elegans are formed when young larvae experience conditions of low food availability and high conspecific population density; non-dauer, third stage larvae are formed in conditions of plenty. This developmental response to environmental conditions is an example of phenotypic plasticity; that is, an environmentally induced change in phenotype and, as such, a manifestation of a genotype-environment interaction. Extensive variation was found in reaction norms of phenotypic plasticity of dauer formation among wild lines of C. elegans. Recombinant-inbred lines were constructed from parental lines with very different reaction norms of dauer formation. These recombinant-inbred lines had a wide range of reaction norms, of a range greater than that set by the parental lines. The natural variation in reaction norms of dauer formation in C. elegans is, presumably, an adaptation to enhance fitness under the lines' different natural prevailing conditions. The genetic basis of this variation, as well as its phenotypic consequences, are now ripe for further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Pheromones / metabolism


  • Pheromones