The contributions of programmed developmental change and phenotypic plasticity to within-individual variation in leaf traits in Dicerandra linearifolia

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Abstract

Variation among modules of a single genet could provide a means of adaptation to environmental heterogeneity. Two mechanisms that can give rise to such variation are programmed developmental change and phenotypic plasticity. I quantified the relative roles of these two mechanisms in causing within-individual variation in six leaf traits of an annual plant. Under controlled temperatures, morphological, anatomical, and physiological traits of leaves produced by the same individual differed as a function of both the node at which they were produced and the temperature they experienced during development. Temperature, node, and interactions between them all contributed significantly to the pattern of within-individual variation in leaf traits, although the relative contributions of programmed developmental change and phenotypic plasticity differed for different traits. I hypothesize that these two mechanisms for generating within-individual variation in module phenotype are favored by different patterns of environmental heterogeneity; when the sequence of environments encountered by modules of a single individual is predictable, programmed developmental change may be favored, and phenotypic plasticity may be favored when the sequence of environments is irregular with respect to individual ontogeny and therefore not predictable.

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