To test the hypothesis that variation in photosynthesis can cause differences in fitness, we compared wild-type (WT) Amaranthus hybridus genotypes to those having a single-gene mutation (R) that affects photosynthetic rate. By using light and water treatments, we generated a range of differences between WT and R genotypes in photosynthetic rate, growth and reproduction at three developmental stages. In two cases photosynthetic differences were in the expected direction (WT > R), they did not differ in others, and in one case the R genotype had a higher rate than the WT. Across light and water treatments, higher rates of photosynthesis were related to increases in specific leaf area, leaf nitrogen content and stomatal conductance relative to the other genotype. Differences between genotypes in growth and allocation paralleled those in photosynthesis; in treatments where photosynthetic rate differed between the genotypes (high light), growth and reproduction did as well. In high light, the effects of genotype on fitness were indirect with high-water availability, but were direct with low-water availability. When photosynthetic rate did not differ between genotypes (low light), neither did growth and reproduction. These results demonstrate that variation in photosynthesis can cause differences in growth and reproduction. Furthermore, resource availability can moderate the ways in which selection operates on photosynthetic traits.
- Amaranthus hybridus