Proximate and ultimate responses to stress in biological systems


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    Environmental stress causes reductions in survival probability, growth rates and reproductive outputs. Under these circumstances, however, some genotypes may be less influenced by stress than others and these resistant forms will be favoured by stress acting as a selection pressure. Following Mayr (Science, 134: 1501–1506), these two effects can be described as proximate and ultimate respectively. The ultimate, evolutionary response can lead to direct adaptations that are either fixed or facultative, or to indirect life‐history adaptations. Several attempts to classify stressful selection pressures are reviewed and relationships between these are considered. A model that potentially allows proximate and ultimate, direct and indirect adaptations to be treated within the same framework is described. 1989 The Linnean Society

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)173-181
    Number of pages9
    JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
    Issue number1-2
    StatePublished - Jan 1 1989


    • Proximate
    • facultative responses
    • fixed
    • life‐history adaptation
    • resource‐allocation model
    • ultimate responses


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