Climate change is accelerating plant developmental transitions coordinated with the seasons in temperate environments. To understand the importance of these timing advances for a stable life history strategy, we constructed a full life cycle model of Arabidopsis thaliana. Modelling and field data reveal that a cryptic function of flowering time control is to limit seed set of winter annuals to an ambient temperature window which coincides with a temperature-sensitive switch in seed dormancy state. This coincidence is predicted to be conserved independent of climate at the expense of flowering date, suggesting that temperature control of flowering time has evolved to constrain seed set environment and therefore frequency of dormant and non-dormant seed states. We show that late flowering can disrupt this bet-hedging germination strategy. Our analysis shows that life history modelling can reveal hidden fitness constraints and identify non-obvious selection pressures as emergent features.
Keywords: arabidopsis; flowering time; germination; life history; phenology; plant biology; seed dormancy; temperature.