SREL Reprint #1911

 

 

 

 

PHENOTYPIC PLASTICITY: IMPLICATIONS FOR CAPTIVE-BREEDING AND CONSERVATION PROGRAMS

NEIL B. FORD AND RICHARD A. SEIGEL

Introduction

PHENOTYPIC PLASTICITY IS DEFINED AS VARIATION in life-history characteristics resulting from proximal environmental factors, such as prey availability (Bull 1987; Stearns 1976). Although considered to be extremely important from an evolutionary perspective (Ballinger 1983; Bradshaw 1965; Bull 1987; Stearns 1989), little attention has been given to the implications of phenotypic plasticity for captive-breeding programs of endangered or threatened species. The ultimate goal of captive-breeding and release programs is the establishment of selfsustaining natural populations (Griffith et al. 1989). Clearly, the success of any such program is dependent on the number and quality of offspring released in the wild. Consequently, any mechanism that increases the number and quality of offspring will enhance the likelihood of success. In this chapter we provide an overview of phenotypic plasticity, using snakes as model organisms, and argue that a detailed understanding of this phenomenon may be important for the success of captive-breeding programs of amphibians and reptiles.

SREL Reprint #1911

Ford, N.B. and R.A. Seigel. 1994. Phenotypic plasticity: implications for captive-breeding and conservation programs. In Captive Management and Conservation of Amphibians and Reptiles, A Volume Honoring Roger Conant, edited by J.B. Murphy, K. Adler, and J.T. Collins. p. 175-182. Vol. Contributions to Herpetology, Vol. II. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Ithaca, NY.

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