Transgenerational plasticity provides ecological diversity for a seed heteromorphic species in response to environmental heterogeneity

Fan Yang, Xuejun Yang, Jerry M. Baskin, Carol C. Baskin, Dechang Cao, Zhenying Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


An important but largely overlooked point in studies on annual plant species with heteromorphic diaspores is that the phenotypes can be affected by the maternal environmental conditions. We performed a 2-year pot experiment to evaluate transgenerational plasticity in response to heterogeneity of environmental conditions in the seed-dimorphic species Suaeda corniculata subsp. mongolica. We grew plants from dimorphic seeds (brown and black) of S. corniculata in controlled favorable vs. stressful conditions (early vs. late germination timing or low vs. high soil salinity) for two generations, producing replicate individuals with all permutations of maternal (F0) and progeny (F1) conditions and seed morphs. We then measured the effects of two-generational conditions and seed morph histories on traits of plants (F1) and their offspring (F2). F1 progeny plants from late-germinating mothers allocated more biomass to seeds and produced fewer brown seeds than those from early-germinating mothers. F1 progeny plants that grew under the same salinity as their mothers had higher reproductive allocation than those that grew in the contrasting conditions. When progeny plants were grown in favorable conditions (early germination or low salinity), the stressful maternal conditions (late germination or high salinity) increased germination of black seeds. Moreover, the transgenerational effects of seed heteromorphism interacted with experimental conditions in determining performance of progeny generations. Thus, transgenerational plasticity provided ecological diversity in the regenerative strategy for a seed heteromorphic species, and it may contribute to population maintenance via benefiting offspring responses to temporal and spatial variations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-208
Number of pages8
JournalPerspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 20 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Key Basic Research and Development Plan of PR China ( 2012BAC01B05 , 2012BAD16B03 ) and the National Natural Science Foundation of PR China ( 31170383 , 31370705 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Geobotanisches Institut ETH, Stiftung Ruebel.


  • Environmental heterogeneity
  • Germination timing
  • Seed heteromorphism
  • Soil salinity
  • Suaeda corniculata
  • Transgenerational plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science


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