Parallel Alpine Differentiation in Arabidopsis arenosa

Submitted by vojta on Tue, 12/29/2020 - 11:12

Parallel evolution provides powerful natural experiments for studying repeatability of evolution and genomic basis of adaptation. Well-documented examples from plants are, however, still rare, as are inquiries of mechanisms driving convergence in some traits while divergence in others. Arabidopsis arenosa, a predominantly foothill species with scattered morphologically distinct alpine occurrences is a promising candidate. Yet, the hypothesis of parallelism remained untested. We sampled foothill and alpine populations in all regions known to harbor the alpine ecotype and used SNP genotyping to test for repeated alpine colonization. Then, we combined field surveys and a common garden experiment to quantify phenotypic parallelism. Genetic clustering by region but not elevation and coalescent simulations demonstrated parallel origin of alpine ecotype in four mountain regions. Alpine populations exhibited parallelism in height and floral traits which persisted after two generations in cultivation. In contrast, leaf traits were distinctive only in certain region(s), reflecting a mixture of plasticity and genetically determined non-parallelism. We demonstrate varying degrees and causes of parallelism and non-parallelism across populations and traits within a plant species. Parallel divergence along a sharp elevation gradient makes A. arenosa a promising candidate for studying genomic basis of adaptation.