The role of phenotypic plasticity and epigenetics in experimental evolution with phytoplankton
Schmidt, Katrin; van Oosterhout, Cock; Collins, Sinéad; Mock, Thomas
Abstract Phytoplankton experience multiple, simultaneous and interacting changes in their environment, which affect primary production, community composition and biogeochemical cycles. Many environmental fluctuations occur on short timescales, requiring plastic phenotypes for appropriate physiological responses. Although there is evidence for high phenotypic plasticity in phytoplankton, the underlying mechanisms and their role for evolutionary responses remain elusive but are essential for predicting how phytoplankton respond to climate change. Elucidating the molecular basis of sensing environmental changes and subsequent regulation of plasticity including epigenetics will provide new insights into reaction norms and therefore how species tolerate, persist and eventually adapt to changing environmental conditions. Quantifying the role of phenotypic plasticity in phytoplankton for adaptation is an increasingly important field of research in experimental evolution.