Evolution by natural selection requires three steps. New phenotypic variation 1) must arise, 2) must have an impact on fitness (survival or fecundity), and 3) must (ultimately) be heritable. The first step - how new variation arises - remains controversial. Traditionally, new phenotypes are ascribed to novel genotypes (mutants or recombinants). But developmental plasticity - the same genotype yields different forms in different environments - may be a much more important source of new phenotypes than generally recognized. This has renewed interest in its evolutionary significance.
Our work has yielded valuable insights into the causes and adaptive significance of several striking examples of developmental plasticity and has advanced some of the strongest evidence to date for a 'phenotype-precedes-genotype' mode of evolution. We continue to explore the interplay between developmental plasticity and evolution on both ecological time scales (via descriptive and experimental studies) and evolutionary time scales (via comparative studies).
Ongoing research includes:
* developmental plasticity in starfish tube feet.
* handedness and induced asymmetry in crab claws.
* learning and induced morphological defense in intertidal snails.
* developmental plasticity in feeding limbs of barnacles and porcelain crabs.
* development and evolution of conspicuous biological asymmetries in many taxa, including experimental studies of larval caddisflies and young Cancer crabs, and further comparative studies of these and other taxa (see People & Projects).
Most of our research is conducted at the Bamfield Marine Station, a magnificent field station on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
For more information, visit the Palmer Lab Home Page.
Last Modified:2009-02-12 |