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Keywords:

  • adaptation;
  • angiosperms;
  • life history evolution;
  • natural selection and contemporary evolution;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • quantitative genetics

Abstract

Selection on quantitative trait loci (QTL) may vary among natural environments due to differences in the genetic architecture of traits, environment-specific allelic effects or changes in the direction and magnitude of selection on specific traits. To dissect the environmental differences in selection on life history QTL across climatic regions, we grew a panel of interconnected recombinant inbred lines (RILs) of Arabidopsis thaliana in four field sites across its native European range. For each environment, we mapped QTL for growth, reproductive timing and development. Several QTL were pleiotropic across environments, three colocalizing with known functional polymorphisms in flowering time genes (CRY2, FRI and MAF2-5), but major QTL differed across field sites, showing conditional neutrality. We used structural equation models to trace selection paths from QTL to lifetime fitness in each environment. Only three QTL directly affected fruit number, measuring fitness. Most QTL had an indirect effect on fitness through their effect on bolting time or leaf length. Influence of life history traits on fitness differed dramatically across sites, resulting in different patterns of selection on reproductive timing and underlying QTL. In two oceanic field sites with high prereproductive mortality, QTL alleles contributing to early reproduction resulted in greater fruit production, conferring selective advantage, whereas alleles contributing to later reproduction resulted in larger size and higher fitness in a continental site. This demonstrates how environmental variation leads to change in both QTL effect sizes and direction of selection on traits, justifying the persistence of allelic polymorphism at life history QTL across the species range.