Role of phenotypic plasticity and population differentiation in adaptation to novel environmental conditions

Sergei Volis, Danara Ormanbekova, Kanat Yermekbayev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

Species can adapt to new environmental conditions either through individual phenotypic plasticity, intraspecific genetic differentiation in adaptive traits, or both. Wild emmer wheat, Triticum dicoccoides, an annual grass with major distribution in Eastern Mediterranean region, is predicted to experience in the near future, as a result of global climate change, conditions more arid than in any part of the current species distribution. To understand the role of the above two means of adaptation, and the effect of population range position, we analyzed reaction norms, extent of plasticity, and phenotypic selection across two experimental environments of high and low water availability in two core and two peripheral populations of this species. We studied 12 quantitative traits, but focused primarily on the onset of reproduction and maternal investment, which are traits that are closely related to fitness and presumably involved in local adaptation in the studied species. We hypothesized that the population showing superior performance under novel environmental conditions will either be genetically differentiated in quantitative traits or exhibit higher phenotypic plasticity than the less successful populations. We found the core population K to be the most plastic in all three trait categories (phenology, reproductive traits, and fitness) and most successful among populations studied, in both experimental environments; at the same time, the core K population was clearly genetically differentiated from the two edge populations. Our results suggest that (1) two means of successful adaptation to new environmental conditions, phenotypic plasticity and adaptive genetic differentiation, are not mutually exclusive ways of achieving high adaptive ability; and (2) colonists from some core populations can be more successful in establishing beyond the current species range than colonists from the range extreme periphery with conditions seemingly closest to those in the new environment. Our results suggest that (1) two means of successful adaptation to new environmental conditions, phenotypic plasticity and adaptive genetic differentiation, are not mutually exclusive ways of achieving high adaptive ability; and (2) colonists from some core populations can be more successful in establishing beyond the current species range than colonists from the range extreme periphery with conditions seemingly closest to those in the new environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3818-3829
Number of pages12
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume5
Issue number17
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Emmer wheat
  • Peripheral populations
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Phenotypic selection
  • Species range

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