Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Evolutionary biology

Perplexing effects of phenotypic plasticity


Research on guppies provides evidence that phenotypic plasticity — an organism's ability to alter its characteristics in response to changes in the environment — can both constrain and facilitate adaptive evolution. See Letter p.372

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Trinidadian guppies.

Gerard Lacz/Rex/Shutterstock


  1. See all news & views


  1. West-Eberhard, M. J. Developmental Plasticity and Evolution (Oxford Univ. Press, 2003).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Price, T. D., Qvarnström, A. & Irwin, D. E. Proc. R. Soc. B 270, 1433–1440 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Chevin, L.-M., Lande, R. & Mace, G. M. PLoS Biol. 8, e1000357 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Pfennig, D. W. et al. Trends Ecol. Evol. 25, 459–467 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Ghalambor, C. K. et al. Nature 525, 372–375 (2015).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Ancel, L. W. Theor. Popul. Biol. 58, 307–319 (2000).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Paenke, I., Sendhoff, B. & Kawecki, T. J. Am. Nat. 170, E47–E58 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Waddington, C. H. Adv. Genet. 10, 257–293 (1961).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Suzuki, Y. & Nijhout, H. F. Science 311, 650–652 (2006).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Schaum, C. E. & Collins, S. Proc. R. Soc. B 281, 20141486 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Juha Merilä.

Related links

Related links

Related links in Nature Research

Evolutionary biology: Insects converge on resistance

Evolutionary developmental biology: Dynasty of the plastic fish

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Merilä, J. Perplexing effects of phenotypic plasticity. Nature 525, 326–327 (2015).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing