Variation in circadian rhythms is maintained among and within populations in Boechera stricta

Matti J. Salmela, Kathleen Greenham, Ping Lou, C. Robertson Mcclung, Brent E. Ewers, Cynthia Weinig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Circadian clocks have evolved independently in all three domains of life, and fitness benefits of a functional clock have been demonstrated in experimental genotypes in controlled conditions. Still, little is known about genetic variation in the clock and its fitness consequences in natural populations from heterogeneous environments. Using Wyoming populations of the Arabidopsis relative Boechera stricta as our study system, we demonstrate that genetic variation in the clock can occur at multiple levels: means of circadian period among populations sampled at different elevations differed by less than 1 h, but means among families sampled within populations varied by as much as 3.5h. Growth traits also varied among and within populations. Within the population with the most circadian variation, we observed evidence for a positive correlation between period and growth and a negative correlation between period and root-to-shoot ratio. We then tested whether performance tradeoffs existed among families of this population across simulated seasonal settings. Growth rankings of families were similar across seasonal environments, but for root-to-shoot ratio, genotype×environment interactions contributed significantly to total variation. Therefore, further experiments are needed to identify evolutionary mechanisms that preserve substantial quantitative genetic diversity in the clock in this and other species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1293-1303
Number of pages11
JournalPlant Cell and Environment
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Adaptation
  • Circadian clock
  • Environmental heterogeneity
  • Genetic differentiation
  • Genotype×environment interaction
  • Maintenance of genetic variation


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