Phenotypic plasticity describes an organism's ability to produce multiple phenotypes in direct response to its environmental conditions. Over the past 15 years empiricists have found that this plasticity frequently exhibits geographic variation and often possesses a significant heritable genetic basis. However, few studies have examined both of these aspects of plasticity simultaneously. Here, we examined both the geographic and genetic variations of the plasticity for diapause incidence (the proportion of eggs that enter an arrested state of development capable of surviving over the winter) relative to temperatures and photoperiods associated with long and short season environments across six populations of the striped ground cricket, Allonemobius socius, using a half-sibling split brood quantitative genetic design. We found that plasticity, as measured by the slope of the reaction norm, was greater in the southern-low altitude region (where populations are bivoltine) relative to the southern-high and northern-low altitude regions (where populations are univoltine). However, the heritability of plasticity was only significantly different from zero in univoltine populations that experienced “intermediate” natal season lengths. These patterns suggest that selection may favor the plasticity of diapause incidence in bivoltine regions, but act against plasticity in regions in which populations are univoltine. Furthermore, our data suggest that under “intermediate” natal season length conditions, the interplay between local adaptation and gene flow may keep the plasticity of diapause incidence low (but still significant) while maintaining its genetic variation. As such, this study not only provides a novel observation into the geographic variation of phenotypic plasticity, but also provides much needed groundwork for tests of its adaptive significance.
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