Density-dependent processes influencing the evolutionary dynamics of dispersal: A functional analysis of seed dispersal in Arabidopsis thaliana (Brassicaceae)
We conducted a functional analysis of seed dispersal and its plasticity in response to density in Arabidopsis thaliana by growing morphologically diverse ecotypes under high and low density and measuring seed dispersion patterns under controlled conditions. Maternal plant architectural traits such as height and branching, and fruit traits such as dehiscence and silique length influenced various measures of seed dispersion patterns, including the average dispersal distance, kurtosis of the seed dispersion pattern, and post-dispersal seed density. The density at which plants grew determined which traits influenced dispersal. A change in density would therefore change which maternal characters would be subjected to natural selection through selection on dispersal. Density-mediated maternal effects on dispersal contributed to a negative correlation between parents and offspring for sibling density after dispersal, which could impede the response to selection on post-dispersal sibling density. Plant traits that influenced dispersal also influenced maternal fitness - sometimes opposing selection on dispersal and sometimes augmenting it - and the direction of the relationship sometimes depended on density. These density-dependent relationships between plant traits, dispersal, and maternal fitness can increase or reduce evolutionary constraints on dispersal, depending on the trait and depending on post-dispersal density itself.
Wender, NJ; Polisetty, CR; Donohue, K
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