Water stress tolerance tracks environmental exposure and exhibits a fluctuating sexual dimorphism in a tropical liverwort

Rose A. Marks, Brennen D. Pike, D. Nicholas McLetchie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Water shortage events negatively impact plant productivity, threaten ecosystem functioning, and are predicted to increase dramatically in the coming years. Consequently, building a detailed understanding of how plants respond to water stress is critical for improving predictions of ecological processes and species range shifts under climate change. Here, we characterized patterns of intraspecific variation in dehydration tolerance (DhT, also dehydration tolerant) across a variable landscape in the tropical plant, Marchantia inflexa. DhT enables tissues to survive substantial drying (below an absolute water content of − 10 MPa) and despite the ecological significance of DhT, many questions remain. We tested if DhT was correlated with an environmental exposure gradient, if male and female plants had contrasting DhT phenotypes, and if variation in DhT had a genetic component. To do so, we collected plants from five populations, spanning an environmental exposure gradient in the forests of northern Trinidad, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. We measured DhT immediately after collection, and after growing plants for ~ 1 year in a common garden. We found that DhT varied significantly among populations and tracked the characterized exposure gradient. Additionally, we showed that phenotypic differences among populations in DhT were maintained in the common garden, suggesting that underlying genetic differences contribute to DhT variability. Finally, we detected a fluctuating sexual dimorphism where males had lower DhT than females in less exposed sites, but not in more exposed sites. Interestingly, this fluctuating sexual dimorphism in DhT was driven primarily by male variation (females exhibited similar DhT across sites).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)791-802
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Desiccation tolerance
  • Diversity panel
  • Ecophysiology
  • Fluctuating sexual dimorphisms
  • Intraspecific variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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