The role of changes in environmental quality in multitrait plastic responses to environmental and social change in the model microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Ignacio J. Melero Jiménez, Antonio Flores Moya, Sinead Collins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Intraspecific variation plays a key role in species' responses to environmental change; however, little is known about the role of changes in environmental quality (the population growth rate an environment supports) on intraspecific trait variation. Here, we hypothesize that intraspecific trait variation will be higher in ameliorated environments than in degraded ones. We first measure the range of multitrait phenotypes over a range of environmental qualities for three strains and two evolutionary histories of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii in laboratory conditions. We then explore how environmental quality and trait variation affect the predictability of lineage frequencies when lineage pairs are grown in indirect co-culture. Our results show that environmental quality has the potential to affect intraspecific variability both in terms of the variation in expressed trait values, and in terms of the genotype composition of rapidly growing populations. We found low phenotypic variability in degraded or same-quality environments and high phenotypic variability in ameliorated conditions. This variation can affect population composition, as monoculture growth rate is a less reliable predictor of lineage frequencies in ameliorated environments. Our study highlights that understanding whether populations experience environmental change as an increase or a decrease in quality relative to their recent history affects the changes in trait variation during plastic responses, including growth responses to the presence of conspecifics. This points towards a fundamental role for changes in overall environmental quality in driving phenotypic variation within closely-related populations, with implications for microevolution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1888-1901
Number of pages13
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume11
Issue number4
Early online date27 Jan 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021

Keywords

  • chlamydomonas reinhardtii
  • environmental quality
  • intraspecific variation
  • maximum growth rate
  • carbon dioxide
  • temperature
  • light
  • carbon use efficiency
  • photosynthesis
  • reactive oxygen
  • plasticity

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