Phenotypic Plasticity and Species Coexistence

Martin M. Turcotte, Jonathan M. Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

184 Scopus citations


Ecologists are increasingly interested in predicting how intraspecific variation and changing trait values impact species interactions and community composition. For many traits, much of this variation is caused by phenotypic plasticity, and thus the impact of plasticity on species coexistence deserves robust quantification. Partly due to a lack of sound theoretical expectations, empirical studies make contradictory claims regarding plasticity effects on coexistence. Our critical review of this literature, framed in modern coexistence theory, reveals that plasticity affects species interactions in ways that could impact stabilizing niche differences and competitive asymmetries. However, almost no study integrates these measures to quantify the net effect of plasticity on species coexistence. To address this challenge, we outline novel empirical approaches grounded in modern theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)803-813
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • character displacement
  • competitive asymmetry
  • intraspecific variation
  • niche shift
  • resource polymorphism.


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