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Natural selection and neutral evolutionary processes contribute to genetic divergence in leaf traits across a precipitation gradient in the tropical oak Quercus oleoides

Ramírez‐Valiente, José A., Deacon, Nicholas J., Etterson, Julie, Center, Alyson, Sparks, Jed P., Sparks, Kimberlee L., Longwell, Timothy, Pilz, George, Cavender‐Bares, Jeannine
Molecular ecology 2018 v.27 no.9 pp. 2176-2192
Quercus oleoides, atmospheric precipitation, climate change, drought, drought tolerance, dry season, ecosystems, genetic variation, genotyping, greenhouses, leaf area, leaves, microsatellite repeats, natural selection, phenotype, seedlings
The impacts of drought are expanding worldwide as a consequence of climate change. However, there is still little knowledge of how species respond to long‐term selection in seasonally dry ecosystems. In this study, we used QST‐FST comparisons to investigate (i) the role of natural selection on population genetic differentiation for a set of functional traits related to drought resistance in the seasonally dry tropical oak Quercus oleoides and (ii) the influence of water availability at the site of population origin and in experimental treatments on patterns of trait divergence. We conducted a thorough phenotypic characterization of 1912 seedlings from ten populations growing in field and greenhouse common gardens under replicated watering treatments. We also genotyped 218 individuals from the same set of populations using eleven nuclear microsatellites. QST distributions for leaf lamina area, specific leaf area, leaf thickness and stomatal pore index were higher than FST distribution. Results were consistent across growth environments. Genetic differentiation among populations for these functional traits was associated with the index of moisture at the origin of the populations. Together, our results suggest that drought is an important selective agent for Q. oleoides and that differences in length and severity of the dry season have driven the evolution of genetic differences in functional traits.