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Effects of Genetic Perturbation on Seasonal Life History Plasticity

Science  13 Feb 2009:
Vol. 323, Issue 5916, pp. 930-934
DOI: 10.1126/science.1165826

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Abstract

Like many species, the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana exhibits multiple different life histories in natural environments. We grew mutants impaired in different signaling pathways in field experiments across the species' native European range in order to dissect the mechanisms underlying this variation. Unexpectedly, mutational loss at loci implicated in the cold requirement for flowering had little effect on life history except in late-summer cohorts. A genetically informed photothermal model of progression toward flowering explained most of the observed variation and predicted an abrupt transition from autumn flowering to spring flowering in late-summer germinants. Environmental signals control the timing of this transition, creating a critical window of acute sensitivity to genetic and climatic change that may be common for seasonally regulated life history traits.

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