A Numerical Model Supports the Evolutionary Advantage of Recombination Plasticity in Shifting Environments

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AbstractNumerous empirical studies have witnessed an increase in meiotic recombination rate in response to physiological stress imposed by unfavorable environmental conditions. Thus, inherited plasticity in recombination rate is hypothesized to be evolutionarily advantageous in changing environments. Previous theoretical models proceeded from the assumption that organisms increase their recombination rate when the environment becomes more stressful and demonstrated the evolutionary advantage of such a form of plasticity. Here, we numerically explore a complementary scenario-when the plastic increase in recombination rate is triggered by the environmental shifts. Specifically, we assume increased recombination in individuals developing in a different environment than their parents and, optionally, also in offspring of such individuals. We show that such shift-inducible recombination is always superior when the optimal constant recombination implies an intermediate rate. Moreover, under certain conditions, plastic recombination may also appear beneficial when the optimal constant recombination is either zero or free. The advantage of plastic recombination was better predicted by the range of the population's mean fitness over the period of environmental fluctuations, compared with the geometric mean fitness. These results hold for both panmixia and partial selfing, with faster dynamics of recombination modifier alleles under selfing. We think that recombination plasticity can be acquired under the control of environmentally responsive mechanisms, such as chromatin epigenetics remodeling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E78-E91
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2024


  • environmental shift
  • mating system
  • modifier model
  • recombination plasticity
  • transgenerational inheritance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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