Asymmetrical selection maintains heritable phenotypic variation between two subspecies of Monardella villosa

Taylor M Crow, Jenn M Yost, Michelle S Huang, Matthew K Ritter
American Journal of Botany 2019, 106 (5): 704-712

PREMISE: Monardella villosa is an evolutionarily young species complex distributed across a large geographic range. Our goal was to determine whether the phenotypic difference between two subspecies of M. villosa was heritable and whether the alternative phenotypes were adaptive to their respective local habitats.

METHODS: We collected seeds from 25 populations of M. villosa, 14 from subspecies franciscana, which grows closer to the coast, and 11 from subspecies villosa, which has a larger and more inland geographic distribution. We reciprocally transplanted the two subspecies into their respective habitats and compared plant germination, post-emergence survival, and growth. We used linear mixed models to quantify the effects of genotype and environment to determine whether subspecies were locally adapted and whether leaf traits that distinguish these subspecies were genetically based.

RESULTS: Plants of both subspecies grown at the coastal site had significantly lower survival and biomass than the inland site. The subspecies were not locally adapted; however, the coastal subspecies franciscana did have a home site advantage. We also found that distinctive leaf morphological traits were genetically based, with high broad-sense heritability of traits.

CONCLUSIONS: The two subspecies of Monardella villosa were not locally adapted to their respective habitat, but rather we found that selection for local genotypes may be stronger at the coastal site. Despite the lack of evidence for local adaptation in the strict sense, the subspecies had heritable variation in several leaf phenotypes, indicating that heterogeneous selection imposes an adaptive trade-off for leaf trichome production within this species.


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