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Model systems, including C. elegans, have been successfully studied to understand the genetic control of development. A genotype's phenotype determines its evolutionary fitness in natural environments, which are typically harsh, heterogeneous and dynamic. Phenotypic plasticity, the process by which one genome can produce different phenotypes in response to the environment, allows genotypes to better match their phenotype to their environment. Phenotypic plasticity is rife among nematodes, seen both as differences among life-cycles stages, perhaps best exemplified by parasitic nematodes, as well as developmental choices, such as shown by the C. elegans dauer/non-dauer developmental choice. Understanding the genetic basis of phenotypically plastic traits will probably explain the function of many genes whose function still remains unclear. Understanding the adaptive benefits of phenotypically plastic traits requires that we understand how plasticity differs among genotypes, and the effects of this in diverse, different environments.
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