DOI: 10.1007/s10144-009-0187-8

Rapid adaptation: a new dimension for evolutionary perspectives in ecology (preface)

1. Department of Systems Sciences, University of Tokyo

Correspondence to:
Masakazu Shimada



Although the study of adaptation is central to biology, two types of adaptation are recognized in the biological field: physiological adaptation (accommodation or acclimation; an individual organism’s phenotype is adjusted to its environment) and evolutionary–biological adaptation (adaptation is shaped by natural selection acting on genetic variation). The history of the former concept dates to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and has more recently been systemized in the twenty-first century. Approaches to the understanding of phenotypic plasticity and learning behavior have only recently been developed, based on cellular–histological and behavioral–neurobiological techniques as well as traditional molecular biology. New developments of the former concepts in phenotypic plasticity are discussed in bacterial persistence, wing di-/polymorphism with transgenerational effects, polyphenism in social insects, and defense traits for predator avoidance, including molecular biology analyses. We also discuss new studies on the concept of genetic accommodation resulting in evolution of phenotypic plasticity through a transgenerational change in the reaction norm based on a threshold model. Learning behavior can also be understood as physiological phenotypic plasticity, associating with the brain–nervous system, and it drives the accelerated evolutionary change in behavioral response (the Baldwin effect) with memory stock. Furthermore, choice behaviors are widely seen in decision-making of animal foragers. Incorporating flexible phenotypic plasticity and learning behavior into modeling can drastically change dynamical behavior of the system. Unification of biological sciences will be facilitated and integrated, such as behavioral ecology and behavioral neurobiology in the area of learning, and evolutionary ecology and molecular developmental biology in the theme of phenotypic plasticity.

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