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J Evol Biol. 2013 Jan;26(1):163-74. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12043. Epub 2012 Nov 23.

Phenotypic landscapes: phenological patterns in wild and cultivated barley.

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Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.


Phenotypic variation in natural populations is the outcome of the joint effects of environmentally induced adaptations and neutral processes on the genetic architecture of quantitative traits. In this study, we examined the role of adaptation in shaping wild barley phenotypic variation along different environmental gradients. Detailed phenotyping of 164 wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum) accessions from Israel (of the Barley1K collection) and 18 cultivated barley (H. vulgare) varieties was conducted in common garden field trials. Cluster analysis based on phenotypic data indicated that wild barley in this region can be differentiated into three ecotypes in accordance with their ecogeographical distribution: north, coast and desert. Population differentiation (Q(ST) ) for each trait was estimated using a hierarchical Bayesian model and compared to neutral differentiation (F(ST) ) based on 42 microsatellite markers. This analysis indicated that the three clusters diverged in morphological but not in reproductive characteristics. To address the issue of phenotypic variation along environmental gradients, climatic and soil gradients were compared with each of the measured traits given the geographical distance between sampling sites using a partial Mantel test. Flowering time and plant growth were found to be differentially correlated with climatic and soil characteristic gradients, respectively. The H. vulgare varieties were superior to the H. spontaneum accessions in yield components, yet resembled the Mediterranean types in vegetative characteristics and flowering time, which may indicate the geographical origin of domesticated barley.

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