Characterization, costs, cues and future perspectives of phenotypic plasticity

Hannah M. Schneider*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Plastic responses of plants to the environment are ubiquitous. Phenotypic plasticity occurs in many forms and at many biological scales, and its adaptive value depends on the specific environment and interactions with other plant traits and organisms. Even though plasticity is the norm rather than the exception, its complex nature has been a challenge in characterizing the expression of plasticity, its adaptive value for fitness and the environmental cues that regulate its expression.
This review discusses the characterization and costs of plasticity and approaches, considerations, and promising research directions in studying plasticity. Phenotypic plasticity is genetically controlled and heritable; however, little is known about how organisms perceive, interpret and respond to environmental cues, and the genes and pathways associated with plasticity. Not every genotype is plastic for every trait, and plasticity is not infinite, suggesting trade-offs, costs and limits to expression of plasticity. The timing, specificity and duration of plasticity are critical to their adaptive value for plant fitness.
There are many research opportunities to advance our understanding of plant phenotypic plasticity. New methodology and technological breakthroughs enable the study of phenotypic responses across biological scales and in multiple environments. Understanding the mechanisms of plasticity and how the expression of specific phenotypes influences fitness in many environmental ranges would benefit many areas of plant science ranging from basic research to applied breeding for crop improvement.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbermcac087
JournalAnnals of Botany
Early online date30 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


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