Elucidating the role of phenotypic plasticity and local adaptation in the evolution of Australian Pelargonium species



In this project we aim to assess phenotypic plasticity and local adaptation in water use traits of Australian Pelargonium species

Natural selection can lead to genetic differentiation in phenotypic plasticity, trait means or both. In long term, natural selective pressures can generate ecotypic divergence and speciation. Australian Pelargonium species show high differences in distribution ranges and environmental conditions. Thus, the Australian Pelargoniums provide an ideal study system to examine the role of natural selection in diversification of mean and plasticity in important functional traits. In this project, we assess the genetic differentiation among and within Australian Pelargonium species in phenotypic plasticity and trait mean of physiological, morphological and biochemical traits related to water economy in response to water availability. We also tested whether plasticity is adaptive, maladaptive or neutral under different water regimens. Results derived from this study will enable us to elucidate the importance of local adaptation and phenotypic plasticity in the evolution of pelargoniums and the evolutionary capacity of water traits under environmental changes.

This project is a collaboration with Jose Ramirez-Valienta who was a visiting Post-Doctoral Fellow in the lab (josealberto.ramirezvaliente@gmail.com), Chong Ren Ong (former Honours student), Justin Borevitz in RSB.

If you'd like to learn more about this topic, see these papers by lab members:

  • Jones, C. S., H. I. Martinez-Cabrera, A. B. Nicotra, K. Mocko, E. M. Marais and C. D. Schlichting (2013). "Phylogenetic Influences on Leaf Trait Integration in Pelargonium (Geraniaceae) : Convergence, Divergence, and Historical Adaptation to a Rapidly Changing Climate." American Journal of Botany 100(7): 1306-1321
  • Jones, C. S., F. T. Bakker, C. D. Schlichting and A. B. Nicotra (2009). "Leaf Shape Evolution in the South African Genus Pelargonium L' Her. (Geraniaceae)." Evolution 63(2): 479-497.
  • Nicotra, A. B., M. J. Cosgrove, A. Cowling, C. D. Schlichting and C. S. Jones (2008). "Leaf shape linked to photosynthetic rates and temperature optima in South African Pelargonium species." Oecologia 154(4): 625-635.
  • Nicotra AB, Davidson A (2010) Adaptive phenotypic plasticity and plant water use. Functional Plant Biology 37(2), 117-127.
  • Nicotra AB, Atkin OK, et al. (2010) Plant phenotypic plasticity in a changing climate. Trends in Plant Science 15(12), 684-692.
  • Nicotra AB, Hermes JP, Jones CS, Schlichting CD (2007) Geographic variation and plasticity to water and nutrients in Pelargonium australe. New Phytologist 176(13), 136-149.

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