Phenotypic Plasticity In Leaf Attributes Of Different Ploidy Levels Of Solidago altissima

Jessalyn R. Toldo


Phenotypic plasticity describes the ability of an organism to alter its phenotype in response to its environment. It is well known that plants have a greater capacity for phenotypic plasticity than animals because they have indeterminate modal growth. However, it is less well-known whether genome doubling, or polyploidy, enhances plastic responses. The goal of this study was to determine whether diploids and polyploids from the same natural population of the native goldenrod, Solidago altissima, differed in their plastic responses to contrasting environments. We hypothesized that plants with a higher ploidy level would respond with greater morphological changes because these plants have greater a greater opportunity to manipulate gene expression. . We selected six diploid and six polyploid genotypes and each was divided into 12 clones for this experiment. Four clones of each genotype were used per treatment. Plants were exposed to two treatments: a treatment of reduced PAR and a treatment of soil with nutrient supplementation. Both were grown against a control of full sun and nonsupplemented, low nutrient soil. Representative leaves were taken during two different time periods within the season, specimen were pressed, dried, and scanned and weighed to determine morphological traits and measurements. Leaves were found to display adaptation in situations of reduced photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), with polyploid plants modifying their phenotypes to a greater degree than diploid plants in terms of and aspect ratio, or length per unit width. Diploids, on the other hand, produced longer leaves. In contrast, nutrient availability did not alter leaf morphology and, therefore, ploidy level did not affect phenotypic plasticity in this treatment. Overall, the experiment supported the hypothesis that ploidy level affects phenotypic plasticity in response to environmental conditions. This is an important consideration when investigating the biodiversity of areas affected by global climate change. Plants that are able to elicit adaptive plastic responses are more like to adapt to environmental change.


Polyploidy; Phenotypic Plasticity; Leaf Attributes

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