Long-term Sabbatical

Temperature and the evolution of floral design

PI(s): Elizabeth Lacey (University of North Carolina-Greensboro)
Start Date: 15-Aug-2008
End Date: 31-Dec-2008
Keywords: thermal biology, morphology, behavior, phenotypic plasticity

Knowledge about the selective role of temperature in the evolution of plant reproduction is quite limited in focus. Whereas the influence of temperature on the evolution of flowering phenology, i.e., the seasonal timing of reproduction, has received much attention by biologists (e.g., Ratchke and Lacey 1985; Kudo 2006), little attention has been directed toward understanding how temperature guides the evolution of floral design within the reproductive season. Understanding this latter set of interactions seems critical in light of global predictions for global warming and increased temperature variability (e.g., IPCC 2007). The capacity for thermal acclimation of reproduction within the reproductive season is the focus of my research and my proposed project. During my time at NESCent, I will write two papers about the role of temperature in the evolution of floral design. One paper will be a synthetic review of published literature on floral morphology and behavior. In this paper I will argue that the evolution of floral design in many species is influenced by prevailing temperatures during the reproductive season. The other paper will present the results of an experiment that collaborators and I have conducted to test the hypothesis that floral reflectance and phenotypic plasticity in reflectance in Plantago lanceolata is adaptive because of the ability of floral reflectance to influence internal floral temperature. Both papers will provide useful information about the mechanisms by which plant species modify their reproduction in response to temperature change.

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