DOI: 10.1242/jeb.246546 ISSN: 0022-0949

Developmental plasticity: a worm's eye view

Sophie Jarriault, Christelle Gally
  • Insect Science
  • Molecular Biology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Physiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Numerous examples of different phenotypic outcomes in response to varying environmental conditions have been described across phyla, from plants to mammals. Here, we examine the impact of the environment on different developmental traits, focusing in particular on one key environmental variable, nutrient availability. We present advances in our understanding of developmental plasticity in response to food variation using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, which provides a near-isogenic context while permitting lab-controlled environments and analysis of wild isolates. We discuss how this model has allowed investigators not only to describe developmental plasticity events at the organismal level but also to zoom in on the tissues involved in translating changes in the environment into a plastic response, as well as the underlying molecular pathways, and sometimes associated changes in behaviour. Lastly, we also discuss how early life starvation experiences can be logged to later impact adult physiological traits, and how such memory could be wired.

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