Seminar in Comparative Biology

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Spring 2018 Instructor of Record: Carl Schlichting

This is the home page of the UConn EEB department's Seminar in Comparative Biology on The Evolution of Phenotypic Plasticity. This (Spring 2018) semester, we are meeting each Wednesday at 10:00am in the Bamford Conference Room in the Torrey Life Science building.

Possible topics for discussion

Maladaptive plasticity

Genetic assimilation/accommodation

Costs of Plasticity

Transgenerational plasticity & epigenetic marking

Genetic control of plastic responses

Integration of plastic responses

Hidden reaction norms/cryptic genetic variation


The papers for discussion are available either online (through the library or journals) or as a pdf in the UConn Dropbox if not available online

January 24, 2018

Organizational meeting, Bamford Conference Room, 10am

January 31, 2018

Costs of Plasticity, Annette Evans

Reading for discussion: DeWitta et al 1998, Costs and Limits of Phenotypic Plasticity

Optional 2nd reading: Murren et al 2015 Contraints on the evolution of phenotypic plasticity: limits and costs of phenotype and plasticity

February 7, 2018

Costs of Plasticity, Carl Schlichting

Readings for discussion:

Murren et al 2015 Contraints on the evolution of phenotypic plasticity: limits and costs of phenotype and plasticity

Maughan et al 2007 The roles of mutation accumulation and selection in loss of sporulation in experimental populations of Bacillus subtilis

To discuss during seminar:

Schlichting, C. D., J. R. Auld, H. S. Callahan, C. K. Ghalambor, C. A. Handelsman, M. A. Heskel, . . . C. J. Murren. unpub. Detecting Costs of Phenotypic Plasticity. [1]

February 14, 2018

Epigenetics and Plasticity, Lauren Stanley


1. Hales et al. 2017 Contrasting gene expression programs correspond with predator-induced phenotypic plasticity within and across generations in Daphnia

2. Auge et al. 2017 Adjusting phenotypes via within- and across-generational plasticity

February 21, 2018

Maladaptive Plasticity, Eileen Schaub

1. Ghalambor et al 2015 Non-adaptive plasticity potentiates rapid adaptive evolution of gene expression in nature

2. Sánchez-Gómez 2007 Functional traits and plasticity linked to seedlings’ performance under shade and drought in Mediterranean woody species

March 21, 2018

Hidden Reaction Norms and Cryptic Genetic Variation - Chris Nadeau

Background Readings:

1. Schlichting. 2008. Hidden reaction norms, cryptic genetic variation, and evolvability

2. Pfenning et al. 2010. Phenotypic plasticity's impacts on diversification and speciation

Reading for Discussion:

1. McGuigan et al. 2010. Cryptic genetic variation and body size evolution in threespine stickleback

March 28, 2018

Plasticity's Role in Adaptation to New Environments: A Look into Climate Change, Tanisha Williams

Background Readings:

1. Nicotra et al. 2010 Plant phenotypic plasticity in a changing climate

2. Merilä and Hendry 2013 Climate change, adaptation, and phenotypic plasticity: the problem and the evidence

Reading for Discussion:

1. Münzbergová et al. 2017 Genetic differentiation and plasticity interact along temperature and precipitation gradients to determine plant performance under climate change

April 4, 2018

April 11, 2018

April 18, 2018

, 2018

Plasticity & Microenvironment, Timothy Moore, James Mickley

April 25, 2018

Information for discussion leaders

Seminar Format: Registered students will lead discussions (perhaps more than once depending on the number of participants).

The leader(s) will be responsible both for (1) selection of readings, (2) announcing the selection, (3) an introductory presentation, (4) driving discussion and (5) setting up and shutting down the projector.

Readings: In consultation with the instructors, each leader should assign one primary paper for discussion and up to two other ancillary papers or resources. The readings should be posted to EEBedia at least 5 days in advance.

Announcing the reading: The leader should add an entry to the schedule (see below) by editing this page. There are two ways to create a link to the paper:

1. If the paper is available online through our library, it is sufficient to create a link to the DOI:

:[ Doyle et al. 2015. Syst. Biol. 64:824-837.]

In this case, you need not give all the citation details because the DOI should always be sufficient to find the paper. The colon (:) at the beginning of the link causes the link to be indented an placed on a separate line. Note that the DOI is in the form of a URL, starting with Here is how the above link looks embedded in this EEBedia page:

Doyle et al. 2015. Syst. Biol. 64:824-837.

2. If the paper is not available through the library, upload a PDF of the paper to the UConn dropbox, being sure to use the secure version so that it can be password protected. Copy the URL provided by dropbox, and create a link to it as follows (see the Dropbox Test page for other examples):

:[ Doyle et al. 2015.]

In this case, you should provide a full citation to the paper for the benefit of those that visit the site long after the dropbox link has expired; however, the full details need not be part of the link text. Here is what this kind of link looks like embedded in this EEBedia page:

Doyle et al. 2015. Full citation: Vinson P. Doyle, Randee E. Young, Gavin J. P. Naylor, and Jeremy M. Brown. 2015. Can We Identify Genes with Increased Phylogenetic Reliability? Systematic Biology 64 (5): 824-837. doi:10.1093/sysbio/syv041

If you have ancillary papers, upload those to the dropbox individually and create separate links.

Finally, send a note to the Plasticity seminar list letting everyone know that a paper is available.

Introductory Presentation: Introduce your topic with a 10- to 15-minute presentation (Powerpoint or Keynote encouraged). Dedicate at least 2/3 of that time to placing the subject into the broader context of the subject areas/themes and at most 1/3 of it introducing paper, special definitions, taxa, methods, etc. Never exceed 15 minutes. (For example, for a reading on figs and fig-wasps, broaden the scope to plant-herbivore co-evolution.). Add images, include short movie clips, visit web resources, etc. to keep the presentation engaging. Although your presentation should not be a review of the primary reading, showing key figures from the readings may be helpful (and appreciated). You may also want to provide more detail and background about ancillary readings which likely have not been read by all.

Discussion: You are responsible for driving the discussion. Assume everyone in attendance has read the main paper. There are excellent suggestions for generating class discussions on Chris Elphick's Current Topics in Conservation Biology course site. See section "Expectations" at Prepare several questions that you expect will spur discussion. Ideally, you would distribute questions a day or two before our class meeting.

Projector: The Bamford room has joined the modern world--you should just need to plug in your computer or USB key to project.