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Outcrossing and photosynthetic rates vary independently within two Clarkia species: implications for the joint evolution of drought escape physiology and mating system.


Background and Aims Mating systems of plants are diverse and evolutionarily labile. Abiotic environmental factors, such as seasonal drought, may impose selection on physiological traits that could lead to transitions in mating system if physiological traits are genetically correlated with traits that influence mating system. Within Clarkia, self-fertilizing taxa have higher photosynthetic rates, earlier flowering phenology, faster individual floral development and more compressed flowering periods than their outcrossing sister taxa, potentially reducing the selfing taxa's exposure to drought. In theory, this contrast in trait combinations between sister taxa could have arisen via correlated evolution due to pleiotropy or genetic linkage. Alternatively, each trait may evolve independently as part of a life history that is adaptive in seasonally dry environments. Methods To evaluate these hypotheses, we examined relationships between photosynthetic rates (adjusted for plant height and leaf node position) and outcrossing rates (estimated by allozyme variation in progeny arrays) during two consecutive years in multiple wild populations of two mixed-mating Clarkia taxa, each of which is sister to a derived selfing taxon. If the negative association between photosynthetic rate and outcrossing previously observed between sister taxa reflects correlated evolution due to a strong negative genetic correlation between these traits, then a similarly negative relationship would be observed within populations of each taxon. By contrast, if the combination of elevated photosynthetic rates and reduced outcrossing evolved independently within taxa, we predicted no consistent relationship between photosynthetic rate and outcrossing rate. Key Results We found no significant difference in outcrossing rates within populations between groups of plants with high versus low photosynthetic rates. Conclusions Overall, these results provide support for the hypothesis that the joint divergence in photosynthetic rate and mating system observed between Clarkia sister taxa is the result of independent evolutionary transitions.

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