Among-year variation in selection during early life stages and the genetic basis of fitness in Arabidopsis thaliana

Mol Ecol. 2018 Jun;27(11):2498-2511. doi: 10.1111/mec.14697. Epub 2018 May 11.


Incomplete information regarding both selection regimes and the genetic basis of fitness limits our understanding of adaptive evolution. Among-year variation in the genetic basis of fitness is rarely quantified, and estimates of selection are typically based on single components of fitness, thus potentially missing conflicting selection acting during other life-history stages. Here, we examined among-year variation in selection on a key life-history trait and the genetic basis of fitness covering the whole life cycle in the annual plant Arabidopsis thaliana. We planted freshly matured seeds of >200 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) derived from a cross between two locally adapted populations (Italy and Sweden), and both parental genotypes at the native site of the Swedish population in three consecutive years. We quantified selection against the nonlocal Italian genotype, mapped quantitative trait loci (QTL) for fitness and its components, and quantified selection on timing of germination during different life stages. In all 3 years, the local Swedish genotype outperformed the nonlocal Italian genotype. However, both the contribution of early life stages to relative fitness, and the effects of fitness QTL varied among years. Timing of germination was under conflicting selection through seedling establishment vs. adult survival and fecundity, and both the direction and magnitude of net selection varied among years. Our results demonstrate that selection during early life stages and the genetic basis of fitness can vary markedly among years, emphasizing the need for multiyear studies considering the whole life cycle for a full understanding of natural selection and mechanisms maintaining local adaptation.

Keywords: QTL mapping; adaptation; conflicting selection; germination timing; life-history evolution; trade-off.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Genetic Fitness / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation / genetics*
  • Genotype
  • Germination / genetics
  • Italy
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / genetics
  • Seedlings / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic / genetics*
  • Sweden

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.f88p700