Is there more to within-plant variation in seed size than developmental noise?

Christophe Pélabon*, Francesca De Giorgi, Øystein H. Opedal, Geir Hysing Bolstad, Astrid Raunsgard, Scott Armbruster

*Corresponding author for this work

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Within-plant variation in seed size may merely reflect developmental instability, or it may be adaptive in facilitating diversifying bet-hedging, that is, production of phenotypically diverse offspring when future environments are unpredictable. To test this hypothesis, we analyzed patterns of variation in seed size in 11 populations of the perennial vine Dalechampia scandens grown in a common greenhouse environment. We tested whether population differences in the mean and variation of seed size covaried with environmental predictability at two different timescales. We also tested whether within-plant variation in seed size was correlated with independent measures of floral developmental instability, and whether developmental instability of floral traits increased under stressful environmental conditions. Populations differed genetically in the amount of seed-size variation occurring among plants, among infructescences within plants, and among seeds within infructescences. Within-individual variation was not detectably correlated with measures of developmental instability and did not increase under stress, but it increased weakly with short-term environmental unpredictability of precipitation at the source-population site. These results support the hypothesis that greater variation in seed size is adaptive when environmental predictability is low.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-377
JournalEvolutionary Biology
Early online date8 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • bet-hedging
  • seed mass
  • fluctuating asymmetry
  • development
  • seed maturation
  • dormancy
  • developmental stability
  • canalization


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