Indirect effects of FRIGIDA: floral trait (co)variances are altered by seasonally variable abiotic factors associated with flowering time


Marcus Brock, Department of Botany, 3165, 1000 E. University Ave., University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071.
Tel.: +1 (307) 766-4982; fax: (307) 766-2851;


Reproductive timing is a critical life-history event that could influence the (co)variation of traits developing later in ontogeny by regulating exposure to seasonally variable factors. In a field experiment with Arabidopsis thaliana, we explore whether allelic variation at a flowering-time gene of major effect (FRIGIDA) affects (co)variation of floral traits by regulating exposure to photoperiod, temperature, and moisture levels. We detect a positive latitudinal cline in floral organ size among plants with putatively functional FRI alleles. Statistically controlling for bolting day removes the cline, suggesting that seasonal abiotic variation affects floral morphology. Both photoperiod and precipitation at bolting correlate positively with the length of petals, stamens, and pistils. Additionally, floral (co)variances differ significantly across FRI backgrounds, such that the sign of some floral-trait correlations reverses. Subsequent experimental manipulations of photoperiod and water availability demonstrate direct effects of these abiotic factors on floral traits. In sum, these results highlight how the timing of life-history events can affect the expression of traits developing later in ontogeny, and provide some of the first empirical evidence for the effects of major genes on evolutionary potential.