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J Evol Biol. 2005 Nov;18(6):1601-12.

Stress avoidance in a common annual: reproductive timing is important for local adaptation and geographic distribution.

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Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA.


Adaptation to local environments may be an important determinant of species' geographic range. However, little is known about which traits contribute to adaptation or whether their further evolution would facilitate range expansion. In this study, we assessed the adaptive value of stress avoidance traits in the common annual Cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium) by performing a reciprocal transplant across a broad latitudinal gradient extending to the species' northern border. Populations were locally adapted and stress avoidance traits accounted for most fitness differences between populations. At the northern border where growing seasons are cooler and shorter, native populations had evolved to reproduce earlier than native populations in the lower latitude gardens. This clinal pattern in reproductive timing corresponded to a shift in selection from favouring later to earlier reproduction. Thus, earlier reproduction is an important adaptation to northern latitudes and constraint on the further evolution of this trait in marginal populations could potentially limit distribution.

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