Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Michael E. Pfrender


Mainstream evolutionary biology lacks a mature theory of phenotype. Following from the Modern Synthesis, researchers tend to assume an unrealistically simple mapping of genotype to phenotype, or else trust that the complexities of developmental architecture can be adequately captured by measuring trait variances and covariances. In contrast, the growing field of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) explicitly examines the relationship between developmental architecture and evolutionary change, but lacks a rigorous quantitative and predictive framework. In my dissertation, I strive to integrate quantitative genetics and evo-devo, using both theoretical and empirical studies of plasticity. My first paper explores the effect of realistic development on the evolution of phenotypic plasticity when there is migration between two discrete environments. The model I use reveals that nonadditive developmental interactions can constrain the evolution of phenotypic plasticity in the presence of stabilizing selection. In my second paper, I examine the manner in which the genetically controlled responsiveness of traits to each other is shaped by selection and can in turn shape the phenotypic response to selection. Here, results indicate that developmental entanglement through plasticity can facilitate rapid multivariate adaptation in response to a novel selective pressure. In my final paper, I examine patterns of gene expression underlying ancestral plasticity and adaptive loss of melanin in Daphnia melanica. My results indicate that the developmental mechanism underlying ancestral plasticity has been co-opted to facilitate rapid adaptation to an introduced predator.