Evolution of seed oil melting points of multiple species at a common latitude

Meadows, Scott Alan
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Similar forces of selection operating on multiple taxa can cause convergent evolution of quantitative traits. When those same forces of selection occur across an environmental gradient a phenotypic cline may evolve. I have conducted an experiment in central Texas to test whether seed oil melting points and proportions of saturated fatty acids have repeatedly evolved to germinate as predicted by theory. Species with lower seed oil melting points and proportions of saturated fatty acids are expected to germinate at cooler temperatures than ones that germinate at warmer temperatures. Field observations were conducted at two sites for one year to characterize germination temperatures of sixteen species. Gas chromatography was utilized to describe the fatty acid compositions and melting points of those species’ triacylglycerol (oil) stores. The field sites produced conflicting results. At one site, all analyses supported the theory. Whereas evidence from the other site either contradicted expectation or was equivocal. Likewise there was some evidence that plants with annual life histories are under stronger selection to evolve melting points that approximate germination temperature than species with perennial life histories. Finally, evidence was found that a higher level of variation in seed oil melting point and percent of saturated fatty acids is maintained in species that were observed to germinate at low temperatures relative to species observed to germinate at higher temperatures.