Plants can achieve an appropriate phenotype in particular conditions either constitutively or plastically, depending in part on the grain size of the environmental conditions being considered. Coarse-grained environmental variation should result in selection for local adaptation and no selection on plasticity to novel levels of the coarse-grained environmental factors. We tested the hypotheses that natural populations of the well-studied model system Arabidopsis thaliana are locally adapted to spatially coarse-grained environmental variation, and that the photoperiodic regime per se is at least partially responsible for that local adaptation, by exposing natural populations to photoperiodic regimes characteristic of their native and foreign (novel) environments. We also tested the hypothesis that plasticity to novel photoperiodic regimes should appear random. We found that populations showed evidence of local adaptation at a spatially coarse grain, although not to photoperiodic regime per se. We also found that the plasticities to novel photoperiodic regimes appeared random and did not generally show evidence of adaptive divergence. Our study highlights the need for caution in extrapolating from the finding of local adaptation to the causes of local adaptation.
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Vol. 61 • No. 10