Authors: Sandra Hangartner, Carla M Sgrò, Tim Connallon, and Isobel Booksmythe
Published in: Ecology Letters
Populations must adapt to environmental changes to remain viable. Both evolution and phenotypic plasticity contribute to adaptation, with plasticity possibly being more important for coping with rapid change.
Adaptation is complex in species with separate sexes, as the sexes can differ in the strength or direction of natural selection, the genetic basis of trait variation, and phenotypic plasticity. Many species show sex differences in plasticity, yet how these differences influence extinction susceptibility remains unclear.
We first extend theoretical models of population persistence in changing environments and show that persistence is affected by sexual dimorphism for phenotypic plasticity, trait genetic architecture, and sex-specific selection.
Our models predict that female-biased adaptive plasticity — particularly in traits with modest-to-low cross-sex genetic correlations — typically promotes persistence, though we also identify conditions where sexually monomorphic or male-biased plasticity promotes persistence.
We then perform a meta-analysis of sex-specific plasticity under manipulated thermal conditions.
Although examples of sexually dimorphic plasticity are widely observed, systematic sex differences are rare. An exception — cold resistance — is systematically female-biased and represents a trait wherein sexually dimorphic plasticity might elevate population viability in changing environments.
We discuss our results in light of debates about the roles of evolution and plasticity in extinction susceptibility.
Hangartner S, Sgrò CM, Connallon T, Booksmythe I (2022) Sexual dimorphism in phenotypic plasticity and persistence under environmental change: An extension of theory and meta‐analysis of current data. Ecology Letters PDF DOI