Deciphering the adjustment between environment and life history in annuals: Lessons from a geographically-explicit approach in Arabidopsis thaliana

Manzano-Piedras E., Marcer A., Alonso-Blanco C., Pico F.X. (2014) Deciphering the adjustment between environment and life history in annuals: Lessons from a geographically-explicit approach in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS ONE. 9: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087836

Resum:

The role that different life-history traits may have in the process of adaptation caused by divergent selection can be assessed by using extensive collections of geographically-explicit populations. This is because adaptive phenotypic variation shifts gradually across space as a result of the geographic patterns of variation in environmental selective pressures. Hence, large-scale experiments are needed to identify relevant adaptive life-history traits as well as their relationships with putative selective agents. We conducted a field experiment with 279 geo-referenced accessions of the annual plant Arabidopsis thaliana collected across a native region of its distribution range, the Iberian Peninsula. We quantified variation in life-history traits throughout the entire life cycle. We built a geographic information system to generate an environmental data set encompassing climate, vegetation and soil data. We analysed the spatial autocorrelation patterns of environmental variables and life-history traits, as well as the relationship between environmental and phenotypic data. Almost all environmental variables were significantly spatially autocorrelated. By contrast, only two life-history traits, seed weight and flowering time, exhibited significant spatial autocorrelation. Flowering time, and to a lower extent seed weight, were the life-history traits with the highest significant correlation coefficients with environmental factors, in particular with annual mean temperature. In general, individual fitness was higher for accessions with more vigorous seed germination, higher recruitment and later flowering times. Variation in flowering time mediated by temperature appears to be the main life-history trait by which A. thaliana adjusts its life history to the varying Iberian environmental conditions. The use of extensive geographically-explicit data sets obtained from field experiments represents a powerful approach to unravel adaptive patterns of variation. In a context of current global warming, geographically-explicit approaches, evaluating the match between organisms and the environments where they live, may contribute to better assess and predict the consequences of global warming. © 2014 Manzano-Piedras et al.

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