Perspective Article - Journal of Evolutionary Medicine ( 2022) Volume 10, Issue 7

Developmental Plasticity Biology and the Predictive Adaptive Response Hypothesis

Robert Strauss*
Department of Cancer Society Research, Genome Integrity Unit and Center for Genotoxic Stress Research, Copenhagen, Denmark
*Corresponding Author:
Robert Strauss, Department of Cancer Society Research, Genome Integrity Unit and Center for Genotoxic Stress Research, Copenhagen, Denmark, Email:

Received: 28-Jun-2022, Manuscript No. jem-22-73039; Editor assigned: 30-Jun-2022, Pre QC No. jem-22-73039 (PQ); Reviewed: 14-Jul-2022, QC No. jem-22-73039; Revised: 19-Jul-2022, Manuscript No. jem-22-73039 (R); Published: 26-Jul-2022, DOI: 10.4303/jem/236075


Many types of developmental plasticity have been observed, and most of them are beneficial to the organism. The Predictive Adaptive Response (PAR) hypothesis describes a type of developmental plasticity in which early life cues influence the development of a phenotype that is normally adapted to environmental conditions later in life. When the predicted and actual environments differ, the mismatch between an individual’s phenotype and the circumstances in which it finds itself can have a negative impact on Darwinian fitness and later on health. There are many examples of long-term effects of signals indicating a dangerous environment on the subsequent phenotype of an individual organism. Other examples include the long-term effects of normal environmental changes, particularly in an individual’s nutritional environment. In mammals, cues for developing offspring are often provided by the mother’s diet, body composition, or stress level. Some researchers believe that this hypothetical effect in humans is significant, while others disagree.


In resolving the conflict, a distinction must be made between PAR caused by normative deviations in the developmental environment and the negative effects of extreme environments such as very poor or very rich nutritional environments on development. Tests are designed to distinguish between different developmental processes that impact on adult characteristics. Many of the mechanisms underlying developmental plasticity involve molecular epigenetic processes, and understanding them in the context of PAR and more broadly has implications for revising classical evolutionary theory. The parsimony phenotype at birth in humans, as in other species, can be considered a “survival” phenotype in which the development of vital organs is prioritized, resulting in longterm effects on tissue structure and metabolism. It is less clear whether this phenotype is long-term adaptive for the organism in humans. According to Bateson and colleagues, developing organisms use signals of environmental quality expressed through the maternal phenotype as a “weatherforecast” of the postnatal environment.

Gluckman and colleagues took this a step further by coining the term “predictive adaptive response” (PAR) to describe the mechanism by which organisms anticipate their adult environment and regulate early ontogenetic development accordingly. However, I believe their model needs further refinement to be applicable to long-lived, large-brained people. Touch, licking, and attention, for example, stimulate neural development, behavioral exploration, and even overall body growth in mammals. Why should fitness-related traits be so susceptible to developmental change? We examine the “developmental support hypothesis,” a potential adaptive explanation for this plasticity. In terms of time, energy and exposure, neural development can be a costly process. However, environmental variability may occasionally compromise parental care during this costly developmental stage. This plasticity could have an adaptive explanation. We argue that environmental variation has led to the evolution of adaptive plasticity of neural and behavioral development in response to developmental support cues, where neural development is stimulated under conditions that support associated costs. When parental care is compromised, offspring grow less and adopt a more resilient stress-responsive strategy, increasing their chances of surviving adversity, similar to existing ideas about the adaptive value of early-life stress programming.


The developmental support hypothesis suggests new lines of research, such as testing the adaptive value of reduced neural growth and metabolism under stressful conditions, as well as expanding the range of potential cues that animals can monitor as indicators of developmental support. Consideration of social support cues has implications for promoting healthy neural development in humans. In reality, all of these explanations for socially induced neural plasticity are correct, but evaluating adaptive plasticity hypotheses provides new insights into the existing literature, new avenues for interventions to improve neural health, and opportunities to integrate multiple explanations.



Conflict of Interest


Copyright: © 2022 Strauss R. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.