Path analysis of natural selection via survival and fecundity across contrasting environments in Avena barbata


R. G. Latta, Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford St. Halifax, NS B3H 4J1, Canada. Tel.: +1 902 494 2737;
fax: +1 902 494 3736; e-mail:


We employed path analysis to analyse natural selection through two major fitness components in each of three contrasting environments. Using a randomized block design, 188 Recombinant Inbred Lines (RILs) derived from a cross between contrasting ecotypes of Avena barbata were planted in common gardens in the greenhouse, and in two field sites typical of each ecotype’s native habitat. Individuals were monitored for germination phenology, early growth, survival, final size, flowering phenology, reproductive allocation, fecundity and lifetime reproductive success. The variance/covariance matrix of the RIL (genotype) means was fit to a path model in which total fitness was made up of survival and fecundity (of survivors) components. In the greenhouse, all fitness variation was determined by fecundity variation (with no mortality), which was itself primarily determined by reproductive allocation mediated by date of first flowering. By contrast, in the field, early growth was the major determinant of survival, and final size was the major determinant of fecundity. Both components of fitness affected lifetime reproductive success equally in the field. Thus the major difference between greenhouse and field seems to be a shift from selection on allocation patterns in adults, to selection on resource acquisition, especially at earlier life stages. The pattern of selection was similar in the two field sites, despite the contrasting environments.