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Title: Vertebrate Phenological Plasticity: From Molecular Mechanisms to Ecological and Evolutionary Implications

Seasonal variation in the availability of essential resources is one of the most important drivers of natural selection on the phasing and duration of annually recurring life-cycle events. Shifts in seasonal timing are among the most commonly reported responses to climate change and the capacity of organisms to adjust their timing, either through phenotypic plasticity or evolution, is a critical component of resilience. Despite growing interest in documenting and forecasting the impacts of climate change on phenology, our ability to predict how individuals, populations, and species might alter their seasonal timing in response to their changing environments is constrained by limited knowledge regarding the cues animals use to adjust timing, the endogenous genetic and molecular mechanisms that transduce cues into neural and endocrine signals, and the inherent capacity of animals to alter their timing and phasing within annual cycles. Further, the fitness consequences of phenological responses are often due to biotic interactions within and across trophic levels, rather than being simple outcomes of responses to changes in the abiotic environment. Here, we review the current state of knowledge regarding the mechanisms that control seasonal timing in vertebrates, as well as the ecological and evolutionary consequences of individual, population, and more » species-level variation in phenological responsiveness. Understanding the causes and consequences of climate-driven phenological shifts requires combining ecological, evolutionary, and mechanistic approaches at individual, populational, and community scales. Thus, to make progress in forecasting phenological responses and demographic consequences, we need to further develop interdisciplinary networks focused on climate change science.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Integrative and Comparative Biology
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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