Document Detail

The timescale of phenotypic plasticity and its impact on competition in fluctuating environments.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  18828745     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Although phenotypic plasticity can be advantageous in fluctuating environments, it may come too late if the environment changes fast. Complementary chromatic adaptation is a colorful form of phenotypic plasticity, where cyanobacteria tune their pigmentation to the prevailing light spectrum. Here, we study the timescale of chromatic adaptation and its impact on competition among phytoplankton species exposed to fluctuating light colors. We parameterized a resource competition model using monoculture experiments with green and red picocyanobacteria and the cyanobacterium Pseudanabaena, which can change its color within approximately 7 days by chromatic adaptation. The model predictions were tested in competition experiments, where the incident light color switched between red and green at different frequencies (slow, intermediate, and fast). Pseudanabaena (the flexible phenotype) competitively excluded the green and red picocyanobacteria in all competition experiments. Strikingly, the rate of competitive exclusion was much faster when the flexible phenotype had sufficient time to fully adjust its pigmentation. Thus, the flexible phenotype benefited from its phenotypic plasticity if fluctuations in light color were relatively slow, corresponding to slow mixing processes or infrequent storms in their natural habitat. This shows that the timescale of phenotypic plasticity plays a key role during species interactions in fluctuating environments.
Maayke Stomp; Mark A van Dijk; Harriët M J van Overzee; Meike T Wortel; Corrien A M Sigon; Martijn Egas; Hans Hoogveld; Herman J Gons; Jef Huisman
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  The American naturalist     Volume:  172     ISSN:  1537-5323     ISO Abbreviation:  Am. Nat.     Publication Date:  2008 Nov 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2008-10-21     Completed Date:  2008-12-11     Revised Date:  -    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  2984688R     Medline TA:  Am Nat     Country:  United States    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  169-85     Citation Subset:  IM    
Aquatic Microbiology, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Achtergracht 127, 1018 WS Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
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MeSH Terms
Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
Cyanobacteria / physiology*,  radiation effects
Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / physiology,  radiation effects
Models, Biological
Pigments, Biological / metabolism*
Time Factors
Reg. No./Substance:
0/Pigments, Biological

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