Plasticity, stability, and yield: The origins of Anthony David Bradshaw's model of adaptive phenotypic plasticity
Plant ecologist Anthony David Bradshaw's account of the evolution of adaptive phenotypic plasticity remains central to contemporary research aimed at understanding how organisms persist in heterogeneous environments. Bradshaw suggested that changes in particular traits in response to specific environmental factors could be under direct genetic control, and that natural selection could therefore act directly to shape those responses: plasticity was not “noise” obscuring a genetic signal, but could be specific and refined just as any other adaptive phenotypic trait. In this paper, I document the contexts and development of Bradshaw's investigation of phenotypic plasticity in plants, including a series of unreported experiments in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
For those without an institutional subscription to Elsevier, see the archived preprint.
Erick Peirson's review of Ted R. Anderson's The Life of David Lack: Father of Evolutionary Ecology was published in the March issue of the Quarterly Review of Biology. See the full review here (paywall).
David Lack (1910–1973) was a British ornithologist whose research on population biology was part of a broader set of attempts in mid-20th century to integrate neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory into explanations of the distribution and abundance of species. In The Life of David Lack, ecologist Ted R. Anderson asserts that Lack should be appreciated as the “father of evolutionary ecology,” pointing to his 1947 book Darwin's Finches and his 1947 paper titled “The Significance of Clutch-Size” as evidence for his claim. Central to both of those works was the idea that the demographic and reproductive characteristics of a species are best explained in terms of maximizing the reproductive fitness of individual organisms, and the idea that the mechanisms of this selective process can be studied through experimental manipulations in the field.
On Friday, September 6, PhD candidates Julia Damerow and Erick Peirson gave a joint presentation at the annual meeting of the international Digital History & Philosophy of Science Consortium at Indiana University. Their presentation, titled "Don't panic! Vogon 2.0: Products and Progress in the Sonoran Desert," gave a brief synopsis of recent work on the Genecology Project, Vogon, Quadriga, and the structure of the new ASU Digital Innovation Group. Two more ASU presentations, from Jane Maienschein and PhD candidate Erica O'Neil about the Embryo Project and other Digital HPS projects, will take place today (Saturday, September 7).
The meeting was attended by scholars from the UK, US, Germany, and France. The mission of the Digital HPS Consortium is to "develop, support, and promote digital HPS projects, including editing, publishing, and scholarly tools to make this possible. Insofar as possible, and recognizing the challenges and constraints, the Consortium is committed to open source and open access products."