Detection vs. selection: integration of genetic, epigenetic and environmental cues in fluctuating environments

Ecol Lett. 2016 Oct;19(10):1267-76. doi: 10.1111/ele.12663.


There are many inputs during development that influence an organism's fit to current or upcoming environments. These include genetic effects, transgenerational epigenetic influences, environmental cues and developmental noise, which are rarely investigated in the same formal framework. We study an analytically tractable evolutionary model, in which cues are integrated to determine mature phenotypes in fluctuating environments. Environmental cues received during development and by the mother as an adult act as detection-based (individually observed) cues. The mother's phenotype and a quantitative genetic effect act as selection-based cues (they correlate with environmental states after selection). We specify when such cues are complementary and tend to be used together, and when using the most informative cue will predominate. Thus, we extend recent analyses of the evolutionary implications of subsets of these effects by providing a general diagnosis of the conditions under which detection and selection-based influences on development are likely to evolve and coexist.

Keywords: Adaptive development; bet hedging; habitat tracking; maternal effects; plasticity; reaction norm; transgenerational effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ecosystem*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genetic Variation
  • Models, Biological
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic*