Evol Ecol Res 7: 489-495 (2005)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Retained non-adaptive plasticity: gene flow or small inherent costs of plasticity?

Pim Edelaar,1,2* Theunis Piersma1,2 and Erik Postma1

1Department of Marine Ecology and Evolution, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel and  2Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies (CEES), University of Groningen, PO Box 14, 9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands

Address all correspondence to Pim Edelaar, Centro Nacional Patagonico, Boulevard Brown 3500, U9120 ACV Puerto Madryn, Argentina.
e-mail: w.m.c.edelaar@umail.leidenuniv.nl


Question: Do clams from populations not exposed to a predator retain the ability to respond to that predator?

Motivation: If maintaining the potential for phenotypic plasticity involves a significant cost, plasticity should be selected against in constant environments.

Background: Clams of the species Macoma balthica (a burrowing bivalve) respond to shore crabs by burrowing deeper in the sediment. Norwegian M. balthica are not exposed to crabs naturally, whereas Dutch M. balthica are naturally exposed to variable crab densities.

Sites: Collection: the Balsfjord near Tromsø, Norway, and the Wadden Sea near Harlingen, The Netherlands. Holding tanks: outdoor basins with a continuous flow of unfiltered water from the Wadden Sea.

Method: We introduced a mixture of clams from both sites into experimental aquaria with a thick layer of sandy sediment. Twelve aquaria contained one shore crab; twelve had none. We measured burrowing depth 7 days after the start of each experiment.

Result: Clams from the two sites show similar burrowing responses after exposure to predatory crabs, supporting the hypothesis that maintaining the potential for plasticity costs very little.

Keywords: anti-predation behaviour, bivalve, inherent cost, Macoma, phenotypic plasticity.

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