To quantify adaptive differentiation in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, we conducted reciprocal transplant experiments for five years between two European populations, one near the northern edge of the native range (Sweden) and one near the southern edge (Italy). We planted seeds (years 1-3) and seedlings (years 4-5), and estimated fitness as the number of fruits produced per seed or seedling planted. In eight of the 10 possible site × year comparisons, the fitness of the local population was significantly higher than that of the nonlocal population (3.1-22.2 times higher at the southern site, and 1.7-3.6 times higher at the northern site); in the remaining two comparisons no significant difference was recorded. At both sites, the local genotype had higher survival than the nonlocal genotype, and at the Italian site, the local genotype also had higher fecundity. Across years, the relative survival of the Italian genotype at the northern site decreased with decreasing winter soil temperature. The results provide evidence of strong adaptive differentiation between natural populations of A. thaliana and indicate that differences in tolerance to freezing contributed to fitness variation at the northern site. In ongoing work, we explore the functional and genetic basis of this adaptive differentiation.
© 2012 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2012 New Phytologist Trust.