Many facets of plant form and function are reflected in general cross-taxa scaling relationships. Metabolic scaling theory (MST) and the leaf economics spectrum (LES) have each proposed unifying frameworks and organisational principles to understand the origin of botanical diversity. Here, we test the evolutionary assumptions of MST and the LES using a cross of two genetic variants of Arabidopsis thaliana. We show that there is enough genetic variation to generate a large fraction of variation in the LES and MST scaling functions. The progeny sharing the parental, naturally occurring, allelic combinations at two pleiotropic genes exhibited the theorised optimum ¾ allometric scaling of growth rate and intermediate leaf economics. Our findings: (1) imply that a few pleiotropic genes underlie many plant functional traits and life histories; (2) unify MST and LES within a common genetic framework and (3) suggest that observed intermediate size and longevity in natural populations originate from stabilising selection to optimise physiological trade-offs.
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