The key difference between ecotype and ecophene is that ecotype shows permanence in the adaptation due to the changes in genes, while ecophene shows temporary variations to survive in new conditions, and there are no changes in genes.
Organisms have the ability to adapt to new environments. This is a wonderful ability that allows organisms to tolerate changes in their environments. However, every individual or species has a specific range to which it can tolerate ecological changes. This is known as ecological amplitude. Based on the ecological amplitude, there are three categories of responses or phenotypes as ecophene, ecotype and ecospecies.
What is an Ecotype?
Ecotype is a phenotype of an organism when it lives in a new environment for too long a time period. In other words, when an ecophene remains in its new habitat for too long, it becomes an ecotype. Therefore, the adaptations are permanent, and genetic changes occur within the organism. The genes they carry are responsible for the success in the new environment. Adaptations of the ecotypes are based on the interactions between their genes with their new environment. Therefore, they become best adapted to the new habitat and the prevailing conditions.
For example, Euphorbia hirta has two ecotypes. One ecotype is best adapted to surviving in moist conditions, while the other species is best adapted to surviving in dry conditions. Two ecotypes generally show variations in their genetic makeup.
What is an Ecophene?
Ecophene is the first response or phenotype an organism shows when it arrives in a new environment. It is a morphologically changed phenotype. But the adaptation and changes are not permanent, and they are reversible. These adaptations are temporary changes. They develop only to survive under new environmental conditions. Genetic changes do not happen. Therefore, when the organism returns to the normal habitat, changes are reversed to the normal morphology.
Ecophene can be explained using the following example. Suppose a European arrives in the tropics. The immediate response will be the development of melanin in his skin. Then the European becomes darker. When he returns to Europe, his skin colour changes back to the normal skin colour. Similarly, Euphorbia hirta has two different ecophenes. One species are adapted to grow in dry hard soils while the other is adapted grow in heavily trampled places. There is no genetic difference between these two ecophenes.
What are the Similarities Between Ecotype and Ecophene?
- Ecotype and ecophene are two types of phenotypes that show adaptations to new environments.
- Ecophenes become ecotypes when they remain in the new environments for a long time or throughout the lifetime.
- Both ecotypes and ecophenes can interbreed with other geographically adjacent ecotypes and ecophenes, respectively, without loss of fertility or vigor.
What is the Difference Between Ecotype and Ecophene?
Ecotypes and ecophenes are phenotypes that show adaptations to new environments. Ecotypes show genetically fixed permanent adaptations, while ecophenes show temporary adaptations that are not genetically fixed. So, this is the key difference between ecotype and ecophene. Moreover, adaptations of ecotypes are not reversible, while adaptations of ecophenes are reversible. Thus, this is another significant difference between ecotype and ecophene.
Below is a summary of the difference between ecotype and ecophene in tabular form.
Summary – Ecotype vs Ecophene
Ecotype and ecophene are two types of phenotypes shown by organisms when they adapt to new environments. Ecotype is a phenotype that is permanently adapted to the new habitat. Therefore, it is a genotypically adapted phenotype. Ecophene is a phenotype that is temporarily adapted to the new habitat. It is not a genotypically adapted phenotype. Genetic changes do not occur in ecophenes. Hence, their adaptations are reversible. Thus, this is the difference between ecotype and ecophene.
1. “Ecotype.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Jan. 2021, Available here.
2. Babu, Saurab. “Ecophene, Ecotype and Ecospecies: Taking Adaptations to the next Level.” Eco, 25 Aug. 2020, Available here.