Repeated exposure to enhanced UV-B radiation in successive generations increases developmental instability (leaf fluctuating asymmetry) in a desert annual


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Populations of the desert annual Dimorphotheca sinuata, derived from a common seed stock, were exposed concurrently over four successive generations to either ambient (representing no stratospheric ozone depletion) or elevated (representing 20% stratospheric ozone depletion) UV-B levels during their complete life cycle. Leaf fluctuating asymmetry (FA) was measured in populations of plants grown from seeds of selected generations which had experienced different UV-B exposure histories, and from seeds collected from a wild population of this species which grows in a naturally enhanced UV-B environment. These measured plants had been grown in a greenhouse under essentially UV-B-free conditions. Leaf FA was significantly increased by greater numbers of enhanced UV-B exposures in the parentage of the seed. There was a linear to exponential dose–response relationship between number of UV-B exposure iterations in seed parentage and leaf FA, suggesting that damage to DNA caused by UV-B exposure during plant development may not be fully repaired, and thus be inherited by offspring and accumulated over successive generations in this species. Leaf FA of plants grown from seed from the wild population was not significantly greater than that of control plants whose parentage experienced only ambient UV-B exposures, although this negative result may have been due to low sampling intensity and measurement resolution, and the relatively low UV-B enhancement experienced by the wild population. We conclude that leaf FA may constitute a relatively sensitive yet inexpensive means of quantifying UV-B damage to plants.