Local adaptation

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Local adaptation is when a population of organisms has evolved to be more well-suited to its environment than other members of the same species. This occurs due to differential pressures of natural selection on populations from different environments. For example, populations of a species that lives within a wide range of temperatures may be locally adapted to the warmer or cooler climate where they live. More formally, a population is said to be locally adapted[1] if organisms in that population have evolved different phenotypes than other populations in response to selective pressures imposed by some aspect of their local environment.[2][3] Local adaptation is often determined via reciprocal transplant experiments, where organisms from one population are transplanted into another population, and vice versa, and their fitnesses measured.[3] If the foreign (transplanted) organisms have lower fitness than the native organisms in an environment, then the native population can be said to be locally adapted.

Populations located in different environments may be faced with different biotic and abiotic pressures,[4] consequently natural selection may drive the evolution of these populations in different directions. This divergent natural selection can lead to differences in trait values among populations for those traits that are heritable and impact organism fitness.[5] Local adaptation of a variety of traits has been demonstrated in numerous, phylogenetically disparate organisms.

Examples of local adaptation abound in the natural world. For instance, many plant populations exhibit local adaptation.[6][7][8] This has been established by reciprocally transplanting plants from one population into another population. The transplanted plants often do worse in the novel environment than the native plants that are locally adapted. Many examples of local adaptation exist in host-parasite systems as well. For instance, a host may be resistant to a locally-abundant pathogen or parasite, but conspecific hosts from elsewhere where that pathogen is not abundant may have no evolved no such adaptation. [9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Williams, George (1966). Adaptation and Natural Selection. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  2. ^ Leimu, Roosa (December 23, 2008). "A meta-analysis of local adaptation in plants". PLoS ONE. 3 (12): e4010. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004010. PMC 2602971. PMID 19104660.
  3. ^ a b Kawecki, Tadeusz J.; Ebert, Dieter (2004-12-01). "Conceptual issues in local adaptation" (PDF). Ecology Letters. 7 (12): 1225–1241. doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2004.00684.x. ISSN 1461-0248.
  4. ^ Thompson, John (2005). The geographic mosaic of coevolution. The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226797625.
  5. ^ Endler, John (1986). Natural selection in the wild. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691083872.
  6. ^ Leimu, Roosa (December 23, 2008). "A meta-analysis of local adaptation in plants". PLoS ONE. 3 (12): e4010. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004010. PMC 2602971. PMID 19104660.
  7. ^ Elizabeth, Leger (2009). "Genetic variation and local adaptation at a cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) invasion edge in western Nevada". Molecular Ecology. 18 (21): 4366–4379. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294x.2009.04357.x. PMID 19769691.
  8. ^ Joshi, J (2001). "Local adaptation enhances performance of common plant species". Ecology Letters. 4 (6): 536–544. doi:10.1046/j.1461-0248.2001.00262.x.
  9. ^ Kaltz, O; Shykoff, JA (1998). "Local adaptation in host-parasite systems". Heredity. 81 (4): 361–370. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2540.1998.00435.x.