Ecological genetic conflict: Genetic architecture can shift the balance between local adaptation and plasticity

Olof Leimar*, Sasha R.X. Dall, John M. McNamara, Bram Kuijper, Peter Hammerstein

*Corresponding author for this work

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

4 Citations (Scopus)


Genetic polymorphism can contribute to local adaptation in heterogeneous habitats, for instance, as a single locus with alleles adapted to different habitats. Phenotypic plasticity can also contribute to trait variation across habitats, through developmental responses to habitat-specific cues. We show that the genetic architecture of genetically polymorphic and plasticity loci may influence the balance between local adaptation and phenotypic plasticity. These effects of genetic architecture are instances of ecological genetic conflict. A reduced effective migration rate for genes tightly linked to a genetic polymorphism provides an explanation for the effects, and they can occur both for a single trait and for a syndrome of coadapted traits. Using individual-based simulations and numerical analysis, we investigate how among-habitat genetic polymorphism and phenotypic plasticity depend on genetic architecture. We also study the evolution of genetic architecture itself, in the form of rates of recombination between genetically polymorphic loci and plasticity loci. Our main result is that for plasticity genes that are unlinked to loci with between-habitat genetic polymorphism, the slope of a reaction norm is steeper in comparison with the slope favored by plasticity genes that are tightly linked to genes for local adaptation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-80
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number1
Early online date21 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • Ecotypes
  • Genetic architecture
  • Genetic conflict
  • Linkage
  • Local adaptation
  • Phenotypic plasticity


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