On the fate of seasonally plastic traits in a rainforest butterfly under relaxed selection

V. Oostra, P.M. Brakefield, Y. Hiltemann, B.J. Zwaan, O. Brattström

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Many organisms display phenotypic plasticity as adaptation to seasonal environmental fluctuations. Often, such seasonal responses entails plasticity of a whole suite of morphological and life-history traits that together contribute to the adaptive phenotypes in the alternative environments. While phenotypic plasticity in general is a well-studied phenomenon, little is known about the evolutionary fate of plastic responses if natural selection on plasticity is relaxed. Here, we study whether the presumed ancestral seasonal plasticity of the rainforest butterfly Bicyclus sanaos (Fabricius, 1793) is still retained despite the fact that this species inhabits an environmentally stable habitat. Being exposed to an atypical range of temperatures in the laboratory revealed hidden reaction norms for several traits, including wing pattern. In contrast, reproductive body allocation has lost the plastic response. In the savannah butterfly, B. anynana (Butler, 1879), these traits show strong developmental plasticity as an adaptation to the contrasting environments of its seasonal habitat and they are coordinated via a common developmental hormonal system. Our results for B. sanaos indicate that such integration of plastic traits – as a result of past selection on expressing a coordinated environmental response – can be broken when the optimal reaction norms for those traits diverge in a new environment
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2654-2667
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • sexual size dimorphism
  • bicyclus-anynana
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • reaction norms
  • life-history
  • evolutionary significance
  • artificial selection
  • geographic-variation
  • resource-allocation
  • thermal plasticity


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