Phenotypic similarity and the evolutionary significance of countergradient variation

Trends Ecol Evol. 1995 Jun;10(6):248-52. doi: 10.1016/S0169-5347(00)89081-3.


Countergradient variation is a geographical pattern of genotypes (with respect to environments) in which genetic influences on a trait oppose environmental influences, thereby minimizing phenotypic change along the gradient. Phenotypic similarity across changing environments ought to be of intense interest because it belies considerable genotypic change. When it occurs in characters that are positively associated with fitness, countergradient variation conflicts with the hypothesis that local adaptation to one environment trades off against performance in another environment. Cases of countergradient variation therefore offer unique insight into the mechanisms that produce and maintain phenotypic similarity and/or differences along environmental gradients.