• adaptive phenotypic plasticity;
  • Arabidopsis thaliana;
  • artificial selection;
  • Brassicaceae;
  • flowering time;
  • photoperiod;
  • red-to-far-red ratio (R : FR)


Covariation between light quality- and photoperiod-mediated phenotypic plasticity was investigated using Arabidopsis thaliana. Three episodes of artificial selection were imposed on an index that quantified the plastic response to reduced red to far-red ratios (R : FR), with higher index values indicating greater plasticity. Relative to control lines, two high plasticity (HP) lines showed 1.6- and 2.4-fold increases in the index; low plasticity (LP) lines showed 1.4- and 1.1-fold decreases. A factorial experiment combining high and low R : FR conditions with long and short photoperiods assessed indirect consequences of selection on plasticity. Despite divergent R : FR-mediated plasticities in HP vs. LP lines, all four lines showed increases in photoperiod-mediated responses and decreases in mean leaf number. Complex relationships among trait means, plasticities and underlying mechanisms caution against generalizing about the genetic architecture of plastic traits. Partially independent developmental and evolutionary responses to R : FR and photoperiod are somewhat unsurprising, given this species’ cosmopolitan nature.