Experimental life-history evolution: selection on growth form and its plasticity in a clonal plant


  • Present address: M. van Kleunen, School of Botany and Zoology, University of Natal, PO Bag X01 Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg 3209, South Africa.

M. Fischer, Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Maulbeerallee 1, D-14469 Potsdam, Germany.
Tel.: +49 331 977 4884; fax: +49 331 977 4861;
e-mail: fischerm@rz.uni-potsdam.de


The growth form along the continuum from compact phalanx plants to more loosely packed guerilla plants is an important life-history trait in clonal plants. Prerequisite for its evolution is heritable genetic variation. Starting with 102 genotypes of the stoloniferous herb Ranunculus reptans, we performed one selection experiment on spatial spread per rosette as measure of guerillaness (broad-sense heritability 0.198) and another on plasticity in this trait in response to competition (broad-sense heritability 0.067). After two generations, spatial spread was 36.9% higher in the high line than in the low line (realized heritability ± SE 0.149 ± 0.039). Moreover, compared with the low line genotypes of the high line had fewer rosettes, a lower proportion of flowering rosettes, a higher proportion of rooted rosettes, more branches per rosette, longer internodes and longer leaves. In the second experiment, we found no significant direct response to selection for high and low plasticity in spatial spread (realized heritability ± SE −0.029 ± 0.063), despite a significant correlated response in plasticity in the length of the first three stolon internodes. Our study indicates a high potential for further evolution of the clonal growth form in R. reptans, but not for its plasticity, and it demonstrates that the clonal growth form does not evolve independently of other clonal life-history characteristics.