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Increased socially mediated plasticity in gene expression accompanies rapid adaptive evolution

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle



Sonia Pascoal, Xuan Liu, Yongxiang Fang, Steve Paterson, Michael G. Ritchie, Nichola Rockliffe, Marlene Zuk, Nathan W. Bailey

School/Research organisations


Recent theory predicts that increased phenotypic plasticity can facilitate adaptation as traits respond to selection. When genetic adaptation alters the social environment, socially mediated plasticity could cause co-evolutionary feedback dynamics that increase adaptive potential. We tested this by asking whether neural gene expression in a recently arisen, adaptive morph of the field cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus is more responsive to the social environment than the ancestral morph. Silent males (flatwings) rapidly spread in a Hawaiian population subject to acoustically orienting parasitoids, changing the population's acoustic environment. Experimental altering crickets’ acoustic environments during rearing revealed broad, plastic changes in gene expression. However, flatwing genotypes showed increased socially mediated plasticity, whereas normal-wing genotypes exhibited negligible expression plasticity. Increased plasticity in flatwing crickets suggests a coevolutionary process coupling socially flexible gene expression with the abrupt spread of flatwing. Our results support predictions that phenotypic plasticity should rapidly evolve to be more pronounced during early phases of adaptation.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)546-556
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number4
Early online date14 Feb 2018
StatePublished - Apr 2018

    Research areas

  • Adaptation, Coevolution, Genetic assmiliation, Genomic invasion, Phenotypic plasticity, Rapid evolution, Social environment, Teleogryllus oceanicus, Transcriptomics

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