Symposium: “The role of phenotypic plasticity in moderating evolutionary conflict”

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Troy Day and David V. McLeod (Aug 2018)

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Evolutionary conflicts arise when the fitness interests of interacting individuals differ. Well-known examples include sexual conflict between males and females and antagonistic coevolution between hosts and parasites. A common feature of such conflicts is that compensating evolutionary change in each of the parties can lead to little overt change in the interaction itself. As a result, evolutionary conflict is expected to persist even if the evolutionary dynamic between the parties reaches an equilibrium. In these cases it is of interest to know whether certain kinds of interactions are expected to lead to greater or lesser evolutionary conflict at such evolutionary stalemates. Here we present a theoretical analysis showing that when one of the interacting parties can respond to the other through adaptive phenotypic plasticity, evolutionary conflict is reduced. Paradoxically, however, it is the party that does not express adaptive plasticity that experiences less conflict. Conflict for the party displaying adaptive plasticity can increase or decrease depending on the situation.