Temperature fine-tunes Mediterranean Arabidopsis thaliana life-cycle phenology geographically

A. Marcer, Deborah de Souza Vidigal, P.M.A. James, M.J. Fortin, B. Méndez-Vigo, H.W.M. Hilhorst, L. Bentsink, C. Alonso-Blanco, F.X. Picó*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


To understand how adaptive evolution in life-cycle phenology operates in plants, we need to unravel the effects of geographic variation in putative agents of natural selection on life-cycle phenology by considering all key developmental transitions and their co-variation patterns. We address this goal by quantifying the temperature-driven and geographically varying relationship between seed dormancy and flowering time in the annual Arabidopsis thaliana across the Iberian Peninsula. We used data on genetic variation in two major life-cycle traits, seed dormancy (DSDS50) and flowering time (FT), in a collection of 300 A. thaliana accessions from the Iberian Peninsula. The geographically varying relationship between life-cycle traits and minimum temperature, a major driver of variation in DSDS50 and FT, was explored with geographically weighted regressions (GWR). The environmentally varying correlation between DSDS50 and FT was analysed by means of sliding window analysis across a minimum temperature gradient. Maximum local adjustments between minimum temperature and life-cycle traits were obtained in the southwest Iberian Peninsula, an area with the highest minimum temperatures. In contrast, in off-southwest locations, the effects of minimum temperature on DSDS50 were rather constant across the region, whereas those of minimum temperature on FT were more variable, with peaks of strong local adjustments of GWR models in central and northwest Spain. Sliding window analysis identified a minimum temperature turning point in the relationship between DSDS50 and FT around a minimum temperature of 7.2 °C. Above this minimum temperature turning point, the variation in the FT/DSDS50 ratio became rapidly constrained and the negative correlation between FT and DSDS50 did not increase any further with increasing minimum temperatures. The southwest Iberian Peninsula emerges as an area where variation in life-cycle phenology appears to be restricted by the duration and severity of the hot summer drought. The temperature-driven varying relationship between DSDS50 and FT detected environmental boundaries for the co-evolution between FT and DSDS50 in A. thaliana. In the context of global warming, we conclude that A. thaliana phenology from the southwest Iberian Peninsula, determined by early flowering and deep seed dormancy, might become the most common life-cycle phenotype for this annual plant in the region.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-156
JournalPlant Biology
Issue numberS1
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • Adaptive evolution
  • Environmental gradients
  • Flowering time
  • Geographically weighted regressions
  • Seed dormancy
  • Sliding window analysis


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