DOI: 10.1007/s10144-009-0182-0

Evolutionary ecology of inducible morphological plasticity in predator–prey interaction: toward the practical links with population ecology

1. Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University

Correspondence to:
Osamu Kishida



The outcome of species interactions is often strongly influenced by variation in the functional traits of the individuals participating. A rather large body of work demonstrates that inducible morphological plasticity in predators and prey can both influence and be influenced by species interaction strength, with important consequences for individual fitness. Much of the past research in this area has focused on the ecological and evolutionary significance of trait plasticity by studying single predator–prey pairs and testing the performance of individuals having induced and noninduced phenotypes. This research has thus been critical in improving our understanding of the adaptive value of trait plasticity and its widespread occurrence across species and community types. More recently, researchers have expanded this foundation by examining how the complexity of organismal design and community-level properties can shape plasticity in functional traits. In addition, researchers have begun to merge evolutionary and ecological perspectives by linking trait plasticity to community dynamics, with particular attention on trait-mediated indirect interactions. Here, we review recent studies on inducible morphological plasticity in predators and their prey with an emphasis on internal and external constraints and how the nature of predator–prey interactions influences the expression of inducible phenotypes. In particular, we focus on multiple-trait plasticity, flexibility and modification of inducible plasticity, and reciprocal plasticity between predator and prey. Based on our arguments on these issues, we propose future research directions that should better integrate evolutionary and population studies and thus improve our understanding of the role of phenotypic plasticity in predator–prey population and community dynamics.

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