Sex differences and plasticity in dehydration tolerance: Insight from a tropical liverwort

Rose A. Marks, James F. Burton, D. Nicholas McLetchie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background and Aims Adaptations allowing plants to cope with drying are particularly relevant in the light of predicted climate change. Dehydration tolerance (DhT, also dehydration-tolerant) is one such adaptation enabling tissue to survive substantial drying. A great deal of work has been conducted on highly DhT species. However, bryophytes showing less intense and variable DhT are understudied, despite the potential for these species to provide an informative link between highly tolerant and sensitive species. In this study, we tested the degree to which DhT varies across populations and the sexes of a species expected to exhibit a moderate DhT phenotype. Methods To test predicted patterns of tolerance we assessed DhT in males and females of Marchantia inflexa from two distinct habitat types that differ in water availability. Both common garden and field-collected tissue was subjected to drying assays at multiple intensities and recovery was monitored by chlorophyll florescence. Verification studies were conducted to confirm the level of dehydration, the rate of drying and the associated changes in photosynthetic physiology. Key Results We confirmed our expectation that M. inflexa is able to tolerate moderate dehydration. We also found that females exhibited higher DhT than males, but populations did not differ in DhT when cultured in a common garden. However, field-collected samples exhibited differences in DhT corresponding to environmental dryness, suggesting plasticity in DhT. Conclusions By studying a less extreme DhT phenotype we gained insight into how more sensitive (yet still tolerant) organisms cope with dehydration. Additionally, the identified sex-specific variation in DhT may explain ecological patterns such as female-biased sex ratios. Furthermore, plasticity in DhT has the potential to inform management practices aimed at increasing tolerance to drought conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-356
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Author 2016.


  • Marchantia inflexa
  • acclimation
  • chlorophyll fluorescence
  • dehydration
  • desiccation tolerance
  • plasticity
  • sex difference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Sex differences and plasticity in dehydration tolerance: Insight from a tropical liverwort'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this