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Life-history phenotypes emerge from clusters of traits that are the product of genes and phenotypic plasticity. If the impact of the environment differs substantially between traits, then life histories might not evolve as a cohesive whole. We quantified the sensitivity of components of the life history to food availability, a key environmental difference in the habitat occupied by contrasting ecotypes, for 36 traits in fast- and slow-reproducing Trinidadian guppies. Our dataset included six putatively independent origins of the slow-reproducing, derived ecotype. Traits varied substantially in plastic and genetic control. Twelve traits were influenced only by food availability (body lengths, body weights), five only by genetic differentiation (interbirth intervals, offspring sizes), 10 by both (litter sizes, reproductive timing), and nine by neither (fat contents, reproductive allotment). Ecotype-by-food interactions were negligible. The response to low food was aligned with the genetic difference between high- and low-food environments, suggesting that plasticity was adaptive. The heterogeneity among traits in environmental sensitivity and genetic differentiation reveals that the components of the life history may not evolve in concert. Ecotypes may instead represent mosaics of trait groups that differ in their rate of evolution.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





585 - 604


Co-gradient variation and counter-gradient variation, common garden experiment, life-history evolution, phenotypic plasticity, reaction norm, resource dependence, Animals, Ecotype, Life History Traits, Phenotype, Plastics, Poecilia