Detection vs selection: integration of genetic, epigenetic and environmental cues in fluctuating environments

John McNamara, Sasha Dall, Peter Hammerstein, Olof Leimar

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter (Academic Journal)peer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)
300 Downloads (Pure)


There are many inputs during development that influence an organism's fit to current or upcoming environments. These include genetic effects, transgenerational epigenetic influences, environmental cues and developmental noise, which are rarely investigated in the same formal framework. We study an analytically-tractable evolutionary model, in which cues are integrated to determine mature phenotypes in fluctuating environments. Environmental cues received during development and by the mother's phenotype and a quantitative genetic effect act as selection-based cues (they correlate with environmental states after selection). We specify when such cues are complementary and tend to be used together, and when using the most informative cue will predominate. Thus, we extend recent analyses of the evolutionary implications of subsets of these effects by providing a general diagnosis of the conditions under which detection and selection-based influences on development are likely to evolve and coexist.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1267–1276
Number of pages10
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number10
Early online date6 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Transgenerational effects
  • plasticity
  • bet hedging
  • maternal effects
  • habit tracking
  • adaptive development
  • reaction norm


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