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Surviving Extreme Events

Plants and animals can adjust their physiology to cope with the day-to-day exigencies of the environment. But how has evolution equiped them to respond to rare, extreme events? One strategy is to maintain a high level of defense just in case an event occurs. The alternative is to wait until an event and quickly mount a defense. Mark Denny is exploring how samall-scale variation in both the thermal environment and individual-to-individual variation in physiology affect evolution's choice between these strategies.

At first glance, one would suspect that the ability to quickly mount a defense in proportion to imposed stress would save energy, allowing individuals to grow faster and produce more offspring. Surprisingly, when times are really tough, this proportional induced response is counterproductive.