Developmental plasticity, morphological variation and evolvability: a multilevel analysis of morphometric integration in the shape of compound leaves


  • The first two authors contributed equally to this study.

Minsung Kim, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Michael Smith Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.
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The structure of compound leaves provides flexibility for morphological change by variation in the shapes, sizes and arrangement of leaflets. Here, we conduct a multilevel analysis of shape variation in compound leaves to explore the developmental plasticity and evolutionary potential that are the basis of diversification in leaf shape. We use the methods of geometric morphometrics to study the shapes of individual leaflets and whole leaves in 20 taxa of Potentilla (sensu lato). A newly developed test based on the bootstrap approach suggests that uncertainty in the molecular phylogeny precludes firm conclusions whether there is a phylogenetic signal in the data on leaf shape. For variation among taxa, variation within taxa, as well as fluctuating asymmetry, there is evidence of strong morphological integration. The patterns of variation are similar across all three levels, suggesting that integration within taxa may act as a constraint on evolutionary change.