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Volume 2016, Article ID 7021701, 9 pages
Review Article

Phenotypic Plasticity and Selection: Nonexclusive Mechanisms of Adaptation

INRA, UR004, P3F, RD 150, Site du Chêne, BP 86006, 86600 Lusignan, France

Received 8 December 2015; Revised 5 April 2016; Accepted 3 May 2016

Academic Editor: Ralf Mrowka

Copyright © 2016 S. Grenier et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Selection and plasticity are two mechanisms that allow the adaptation of a population to a changing environment. Interaction between these nonexclusive mechanisms must be considered if we are to understand population survival. This review discusses the ways in which plasticity and selection can interact, based on a review of the literature on selection and phenotypic plasticity in the evolution of populations. The link between selection and phenotypic plasticity is analysed at the level of the individual. Plasticity can affect an individual’s response to selection and so may modify the end result of genetic diversity evolution at population level. Genetic diversity increases the ability of populations or communities to adapt to new environmental conditions. Adaptive plasticity increases individual fitness. However this effect must be viewed from the perspective of the costs of plasticity, although these are not easy to estimate. It is becoming necessary to engage in new experimental research to demonstrate the combined effects of selection and plasticity for adaptation and their consequences on the evolution of genetic diversity.