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Adaptive plasticity, amplified fragment length polymorphism, alpine plants, DNA methylation, epigenetics, global warming

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Environmentally induced phenotypic plasticity may be a critical component of response to changing environments. We examined local differentiation and adaptive phenotypic plasticity in response to elevated temperature in half-sib lines collected across an elevation gradient for the alpine herb, Wahlenbergia ceracea. Using Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (AFLP), we found low but significant genetic differentiation between low- and high-elevation seedlings, and seedlings originating from low elevations grew faster and showed stronger temperature responses (more plasticity) than those from medium and high elevations. Furthermore, plasticity was more often adaptive for plants of low-elevation origin and maladaptive for plants of high elevation. With methylation sensitive-AFLP (MS-AFLP), we revealed an increase in epigenetic variation in response to temperature in low-elevation seedlings. Although we did not find significant direct correlations between MS-AFLP loci and phenotypes, our results demonstrate that adaptive plasticity in temperature response to warming varies over fine spatial scales and suggest the involvement of epigenetic mechanisms in this response.

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Ecology and Evolution, v. 5, issue 3, p. 634-647