Patterns of genotypic variation and phenotypic plasticity of light response in two tropical Piper (Piperaceae) species

Adrienne B. Nicotra, Robin L. Chazdon*, Carl D. Schlichting

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


Patterns of phenotypic plasticity and genotypic variation in light response of growth and photosynthesis were examined in two species of rain forest shrub that differ in ecological distribution within the forest. We further examined correlations among photosynthetic and growth traits. We hypothesized that the pioneer species, Piper sancti-felicis, would display greater phenotypic plasticity than the shade-tolerant species, Piper arieianum. We further proposed that, in both species, genotypic effects would be more apparent in growth-related traits than photosynthetic traits due to more concentrated selection pressure on gas-exchange traits. P. sancti-felicis did not demonstrate greater phenotypic plasticity of light response. Although many of the traits measured had significant genotype effects, neither species showed any significant effects of genotype on light response of photosynthesis, suggesting little genetic variation for this trait within populations. A principal components analysis clearly illustrated both species and light effects, with the treatments dividing neatly along the axis of the first principal component and the species separating along the second principal component axis. Results indicated general similarities between the species in their trait correlation structure and level of integration among traits, but characteristic differences were observed in the patterns of change between low and high light. Both species had more correlations than expected within groups of growth-related or photosynthetic traits; strong correlations of traits between these two groups were underrepresented. The similar pattern of genetic variation and phenotypic integration observed in these two congeners may be due more to their close phylogenetic relation than to their ecological distributions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1542-1552
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1997
Externally publishedYes


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