Ecological divergence and evolutionary transition of resprouting types in Banksia attenuata
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Resprouting is a key functional trait that allows plants to survive diverse disturbances. The fitness benefits associated with resprouting include a rapid return to adult growth, early flowering, and setting seed. The resprouting responses observed following fire are varied, as are the ecological outcomes. Understanding the ecological divergence and evolutionary pathways of different resprouting types and how the environment and genetics interact to drive such morphological evolution represents an important, but under-studied, topic. In the present study, microsatellite markers and microevolutionary approaches were used to better understand: (1) whether genetic differentiation is related to morphological divergence among resprouting types and if so, whether there are any specific genetic variations associated with morphological divergence and (2) the evolutionary pathway of the transitions between two resprouting types in Banksia attenuata (epicormic resprouting from aerial stems or branch; resprouting from a underground lignotuber). The results revealed an association between population genetic differentiation and the morphological divergence of postfire resprouting types in B. attenuata. A microsatellite allele has been shown to be associated with epicormic populations. Approximate Bayesian Computation analysis revealed a likely evolutionary transition from epicormic to lignotuberous resprouting in B. attenuata. It is concluded that the postfire resprouting type in B. attenuata is likely determined by the fire's characteristics. The differentiated expression of postfire resprouting types in different environments is likely a consequence of local genetic adaptation. The capacity to shift the postfire resprouting type to adapt to diverse fire regimes is most likely the key factor explaining why B. attenuata is the most widespread member of the Banksia genus.
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