Does Plasticity Trade Off With Basal Heat Tolerance?

Belinda van Heerwaarden, Vanessa Kellermann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Studies suggest that many species are already living close to their upper physiological thermal limits. Phenotypic plasticity is thought to be an important mechanism for species to counter rapid environmental change, yet the extent to which plastic responses may buffer projected climate change – and what limits the evolution of plasticity – is still unclear. The tolerance–plasticity trade-off hypothesis predicts that the evolution of plasticity may be constrained by a species’ thermal tolerance. Empirical evidence is equivocal, but we argue that inconsistent patterns likely reflect problems in experimental design/analysis, limiting our ability to detect and interpret trade-off patterns. Here, we address why we may, or may not see tolerance–plasticity trade-offs and outline a framework addressing current limitations, focusing on understanding the underlying mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTrends in Ecology & Evolution
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • acclimation
  • climate change
  • CT
  • hardening
  • upper thermal limits

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