Phenotypic plasticity is aligned with phenological adaptation on both micro- and macroevolutionary timescales

Stephen P. De Lisle, Maarit I. Mäenpää, Erik I. Svensson

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


In seasonally variable environments, phenotypic plasticity in phenology may be critical for adaptation to fluctuating environmental conditions. Using an 18-generation longitudinal dataset from natural damselfly populations, we show that phenology has strongly advanced. Individual fitness data suggest this is likely an adaptive response towards a temperature-dependent optimum. A laboratory experiment revealed that developmental plasticity qualitatively matches the temperature dependence of selection, partially explaining observed advance in phenology. Expanding our analysis to the macroevolutionary level, we use a database of over 1-million occurrence records and spatiotemporally matched temperature data from 49 Swedish Odonate species to infer macroevolutionary dynamics of phenology. Phenological plasticity was more closely aligned with adaptation for species that have recently colonised northern latitudes, but with higher phenological mismatch at lower latitudes. Our results show that phenological plasticity plays a key role in microevolutionary dynamics within a single species, and such plasticity may have facilitated post-Pleistocene range expansion in this insect clade.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)790-801
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Ecology


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