Phenotypic plasticity triggers rapid morphological convergence [article]

José-María Gomez, Adela Gonzalez-Megias, Eduardo Narbona, Luis Navarro, Francisco Perfectti, Cristina Armas
2021 bioRxiv   pre-print
Phenotypic convergence, the independent evolution of similar traits, is ubiquitous in nature, happening at all levels of biological organizations and in most kinds of living beings. Uncovering its mechanisms remains a fundamental goal in biology. Evolutionary theory considers that convergence emerges through independent genetic changes selected over long periods of time. We show in this study that convergence can also arise through phenotypic plasticity. We illustrate this idea by investigating
more » ... how plasticity drives Moricandia arvensis, a mustard species displaying within-individual polyphenism in flowers, across the morphological space of the entire Brassicaceae family. By compiling the multidimensional floral phenotype, the phylogenetic relationships, and the pollination niche of over 3000 Brassicaceae species, we demonstrated that Moricandia arvensis exhibits a plastic-mediated within-individual floral disparity greater than that found not only between species but also between higher taxonomical levels such as genera and tribes. As a consequence of this divergence, M. arvensis moves outside the morphospace region occupied by its ancestors and close relatives, crosses into a new region where it encounters a different pollination niche and converges phenotypically with distant Brassicaceae lineages. Our study suggests that, by inducing phenotypes that explore simultaneously different regions of the morphological space, plasticity triggers rapid phenotypic convergence.
doi:10.1101/2021.05.25.445642 fatcat:g6zfptnhh5dddiu5u3e3z2id54