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Phenotypic plasticity

The biodiversity we see around us is enormous and the various environments organisms are exposed to are vast. On land, in lakes and in the great oceans, species experience diverse conditions, which challenge organisms’ prospects to survive and reproduce. For that reason, species use numerous developmental strategies to achieve site specific adaptations. Such developmental strategies are typically related to the heterogeneity of the environment, where a coarse grain environment may favour stereotyped specialist phenotypes, while a fine grain environment may evolve a flexible plastic phenotype.

Ongoing projects

Phenotypic plasticity and local adaptation

We study the evolution and function of inducible versus fixed behavioural, morphological and physiological adaptations in aquatic organisms to different environmental threats, both abiotic and biotic. For example, in earlier studies we have found that chemical cues from predators induce morphological and/or behavioural defences in fish (crucian carp), snails (Radix balthica), crustaceans (Gammarus pulex) and zooplankton. Zooplankton also show a trade-off between a behavioural response to predators and a physiological response to UV-radiation.

At present we are studying the importance of gene flow for the maintenance of adaptive phenotypic plasticity in freshwater prey organisms and, further, quantifying phenotypic and plasticity costs of inducible defences. The effects of induced defences on survival in a multiple predator environment will also be studied.

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People involved

Nanobiology in aquatic systems

Phenotypic plasticity and local adaptation

Snails