The evolutionary ecology of phenotypic variance




Peterson, Christopher R.

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Individual variation lies at the foundation of evolutionary theory. Trait differences among individuals can drive ecologically significant changes in the abundance, distribution, and composition of populations and communities. Phenotypic variance is particularly relevant in the context of global change, where plasticity can buffer evolutionary responses to novel conditions. In this dissertation, I investigate the effects, changes, and potential mechanisms of phenotypic variation as they relate to invasion and responses to climate change. In chapter 1, I use a theoretical approach to consider how trait variance affects the eco-evolutionary outcomes of a predator invasion. For chapter 2, I use meta-analysis to examine how trait means and variances change during range expansions. Finally, for chapter 3 I use Acropora coral investigate the intergenerational heritability of DNA methylation, a potential mechanism behind phenotypic plasticity.


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