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Phenotypic plasticity as a mechanism of cave colonization and adaptation

Bilandžija, Helena; Hollifield, Breanna; Steck, Mireille; Meng, Guanliang; Ng, Mandy; Koch, Andrew D; Gračan, Romana; Ćetković, Helena; Porter, Megan L; Renner, Kenneth J; Jeffery, William (2020) Phenotypic plasticity as a mechanism of cave colonization and adaptation. eLife, 9 (e51830). ISSN 2050-084X

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A widely accepted model for the evolution of cave animals posits colonization by surface ancestors followed by the acquisition of adaptations over many generations. However, the speed of cave adaptation in some species suggests mechanisms operating over shorter timescales. To address these mechanisms, we used Astyanax mexicanus, a teleost with ancestral surface morphs (surface fish, SF) and derived cave morphs (cavefish, CF). We exposed SF to completely dark conditions and identified numerous altered traits at both the gene expression and phenotypic levels. Remarkably, most of these alterations mimicked CF phenotypes. Our results indicate that many cave-related traits can appear within a single generation by phenotypic plasticity. In the next generation, plasticity can be further refined. The initial plastic responses are random in adaptive outcome but may determine the subsequent course of evolution. Our study suggests that phenotypic plasticity contributes to the rapid evolution of cave-related traits in A. mexicanus.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cavefish ; Astyanax mexicanus ; colonization of new habitat ; dark environment ; cave-related traits ; phenotypic plasticity ; adaptive evolution ; non-adaptive plasticity ; canalization ; Baldwin effect ; genetic assimilation
Subjects: NATURAL SCIENCES > Biology
Divisions: Division of Molecular Biology
Project titleProject leaderProject codeProject type
Evolucija u tami-EvodarkHelena BilandžijaTTP-2018-07-9675HRZZ
Depositing User: Helena Bilandžija
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2020 11:49
DOI: 10.7554/elife.51830

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