Genome duplication, or polyploidy, has played an important role in the diversification of flowering plants, but the ecological and evolutionary consequences of polyploidy still remain unclear. Polyploidy is known to either cause or facilitate phenotypic changes, and ploidy-specific phenotypic differences may lead to the exploitation of novel niche space. Many studies reporting phenotypic variation between cytotypes have been observational, and may not reflect ecological adaptation by diploids and polyploids to different habitat. One such trait, water use, may play an outsized role in survival and population expansion into novel habitat. To test whether water use differs among ploidy levels, we grew field-collected diploid, autotetraploid, and autohexaploid cytotypes of the characteristic North American desert plant, Larrea tridentata (DC.) Coville, under greenhouse conditions. We measured whole plant water use gravimetrically over six wk, standardizing water use with measures of total stomatal area. We found that water use was positively correlated with stomatal area, but the cytotypes had similar total stomatal areas and did not differ significantly in mean water use/total stomatal area. Cytotype-specific water use responses through time were also not significantly different. Taken together, these results suggest that the cytotypes have similar water relationships, and possibly fitness outcomes, with respect to water use in common environments.
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Vol. 64 • No. 1