Multivariate selection shapes environment-dependent variation in the clonal morphology of a red seaweed

Keyne Monro, Alistair G B Poore, Robert Theodore Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Within-individual strategies of variation (e.g., phenotypic plasticity) are particularly relevant to modular organisms, in which ramets of the same genetic individual may encounter diverse environments imposing diverse patterns of selection. Hence, measuring selection in heterogeneous environments is essential to understanding whether environment-dependent phenotypic change enhances the fitness of modular individuals. In sublittoral marine habitats, competition for light and space among modular taxa generates extreme patchiness in resource availability. Little is known, however, of the potential for plasticity within individuals to arise from spatially-variable selection in such systems. We tested whether plasticity enhances genet-level fitness in Asparagopsis armata, a clonal seaweed in which correlated traits mediate morphological responses to variation in light. Using the capacity for rapid, clonal growth to measure fitness, we identified aspects of ramet morphology targeted by selection in two contrasting light environments and compared patterns of selection across environments. We found that directional selection on single traits, coupled with linear and nonlinear selection on multi-trait interactions, shape ramet morphology within environments and favor different phenotypes in each. Evidence of environment-dependent, multivariate selection on correlated traits is novel for any marine modular organism and demonstrates that seaweeds, such as A. armata, may potentially adapt to environmental heterogeneity via plasticity in clonal morphology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765 - 782
Number of pages18
JournalEvolutionary Ecology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

Cite this