Evol Ecol Res 16: 267-284 (2014)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Phenotypic complexity: integrated responses of life-history characters to multiple environmental factors

Santiago Salinas1 and Stephan B. Munch2

1Center for Stock Assessment Research, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, USA and  2Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Santa Cruz, California, USA

Correspondence: S. Salinas, Department of Biological Sciences, University of the Pacific, 3601 Pacific Ave., Stockton, CA 95211, USA.
e-mail: ssalinas@pacific.edu


Question: Most of our theoretical and empirical knowledge of phenotypic plasticity is limited to changes in single traits under variation of a single environmental variable. Are insights drawn from this ‘univariate’ world-view different than if we were to study individuals as the integration of many traits in response to many environmental variables?

Organism: Sheepshead minnows, Cyprinodon variegatus, from Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida.

Methods: We reared individuals at different combinations of temperature and food availability (3 × 3 factorial design) over approximately 6 months. We measured growth, age and size at maturation, gonadosomatic index, hepatosomatic index, and body shape. We also estimated levels of phenotypic integration and relative fitness for males and females in each of the nine treatments.

Results/conclusions: Most traits responded to temperature and food directly and some exhibited interactions in their response. Phenotypic integration and fitness changed substantially under different environments, and differently for males versus females. Studying responses from this integrated perspective led to insights that could not have been obtained studying single traits or single environmental variables.

Keywords: phenotypic plasticity, phenotypic integration, reaction norm, growth rate, age at maturation, size at maturation.

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