The Baldwin effect under multi-peaked fitness landscapes: Phenotypic fluctuation accelerates evolutionary rate

The Baldwin effect under multi-peaked fitness landscapes: Phenotypic fluctuation accelerates evolutionary rate

Nen Saito, Shuji Ishihara, Kunihiko Kaneko
(Submitted on 19 Oct 2012)

Phenotypic fluctuations and plasticity can generally affect the course of evolution, a process known as the Baldwin effect. Several studies have recast this effect and claimed that phenotypic plasticity acceler- ates evolutionary rate (the Baldwin expediting effect); however, the validity of this claim is still controversial. In this study, we investi- gate the evolutionary population dynamics of a quantitative genetic model under a multi-peaked fitness landscape, in order to evaluate the validity of the effect. We provide analytical expressions for the evolutionary rate and average population fitness. Our results indicate that under a multi-peaked fitness landscape, phenotypic fluctuation always accelerates evolutionary rate, but it decreases the average fit- ness. As an extreme case of the trade-off between the rate of evolution and average fitness, phenotypic fluctuation is shown to accelerate the error catastrophe, in which a population fails to sustain a high-fitness peak. In the context of our findings, we discuss the role of phenotypic plasticity in adaptive evolution.

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