Flowering time plasticity in Arabidopsis thaliana: a reanalysis of


John R. Stinchcombe, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, Brown University, Box G-W Providence, RI 02912, USA
e-mail: john_stinchcombe@brown.edu


Environmental variation in temperature can have dramatic effects on plant morphology, phenology, and fitness, and for this reason it is important to understand the evolutionary dynamics of phenotypic plasticity in response to temperature. We investigated constraints on the evolution of phenotypic plasticity in response to a temperature gradient in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana by applying modern analytical tools to the classic data of Westerman & Lawrence (1970). We found significant evidence for two types of constraints. First, we detected numerous significant genetic correlations between plastic responses to temperature and the mean value of a trait across all environments, which differed qualitatively in pattern between the set of ecotypes and the set of mutant lines in the original sample. Secondly, we detected significant costs of flowering time plasticity in two of the three experimental environments, and a net pattern of selection against flowering time plasticity in the experiment overall. Thus, when explored with contemporary methods, the prescient work of Westerman & Lawrence (1970) provides new insights about evolutionary constraints on the evolution of plasticity.