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Evolution. 2005 Mar;59(3):521-31.

Experimental studies of adaptation in Clarkia xantiana. II. Fitness variation across a subspecies border.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-2701, USA.


Because the range boundary is the locale beyond which a taxon fails to persist, it provides a unique opportunity for studying the limits on adaptive evolution. Adaptive constraints on range expansion are perplexing in view of widespread ecotypic differentiation by habitat and region within a species' range (regional adaptation) and rapid evolutionary response to novel environments. In this study of two parapatric subspecies, Clarkia xantiana ssp. xantiana and C. x. ssp. parviflora, we compared the fitness of population transplants within their native region, in a non-native region within the native range, and in the non-native range to assess whether range expansion might be limited by a greater intensity of selection on colonists of a new range versus a new region within the range. The combined range of the two subspecies spans a west-to-east gradient of declining precipitation in the Sierra Nevada of California, with ssp. xantiana in the west being replaced by ssp. parviflora in the east. Both subspecies had significantly higher fitness in the native range (range adaptation), whereas regional adaptation was weak and was found only in the predominantly outcrossing ssp. xantiana but was absent in the inbreeding ssp. parvifilora. Because selection intensity on transplants was much stronger in the non-native range relative to non-native regions, there is a larger adaptive barrier to range versus regional expansion. Three of five sequential fitness components accounted for regional and range adaptation, but only one of them, survivorship from germination to flowering, contributed to both. Flower number contributed to regional adaptation in ssp. xantiana and fruit set (number of fruits per flower) to range adaptation. Differential survivorship of the two taxa or regional populations of ssp. xantiana in non-native environments was attributable, in part, to biotic interactions, including competition, herbivory, and pollination. For example, low fruit set in ssp. xantiana in the east was likely due to the absence of its principal specialist bee pollinators in ssp. parviflora's range. Thus, convergence on self-fertilization may be necessary for ssp. xantiana to invade ssp. parviflora's range, but the evolution of outcrossing would not be required for ssp. parviflora to invade ssp. xantiana's range.

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