Causes and Consequences of Phenotypic Plasticity in Complex Environments

David F. Westneat, Leslie J. Potts, Katherine L. Sasser, James D. Shaffer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Phenotypic plasticity is a ubiquitous and necessary adaptation of organisms to variable environments, but most environments have multiple dimensions that vary. Many studies have documented plasticity of a trait with respect to variation in multiple environmental factors. Such multidimensional phenotypic plasticity (MDPP) exists at all levels of organismal organization, from the whole organism to within cells. This complexity in plasticity cannot be explained solely by scaling up ideas from models of unidimensional plasticity. MDPP generates new questions about the mechanism and function of plasticity and its role in speciation and population persistence. Here we review empirical and theoretical approaches to plasticity in response to multidimensional environments and we outline new opportunities along with some difficulties facing future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-568
Number of pages14
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • G×E×E
  • activational plasticity
  • benefits of plasticity
  • costs of plasticity
  • developmental plasticity
  • flexible stem hypothesis
  • passive plasticity
  • phenotypic equation
  • reaction norm
  • variable environments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Causes and Consequences of Phenotypic Plasticity in Complex Environments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this