Evol Ecol Res 13: 779-795 (2011)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Assessing fitness of dormancy from reproductive values of dormant plants

Gabriel I. Herrick and Gordon A. Fox

Department of Integrative Biology, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, USA

Correspondence: G.I. Herrick, Department of Integrative Biology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620, USA.
e-mail: gherrick@mail.usf.edu


Questions: How can the fitness of dormancy as a life-history trait be assessed? Can comparisons of reproductive values between dormant and active plants be used as proxies for fitness comparisons of life histories with dormancy versus without dormancy? Must dormancy be a bet-hedge for it to be adaptive in cases where reproductive values of dormant plants are lower than for active plants?

Mathematical methods: Comparison of reproductive values and fitness across a range of variables using demographic population matrix modelling.

Key assumptions: Plastic phenotypes include dormancy in their life-history repertoire, while static phenotypes do not. These phenotypes have different fitness. The environment is heterogeneous such that individuals within a population experience different conditions in both deterministic and stochastic environments. Active plants have higher reproductive values in good sites and lower reproductive values in bad sites compared with dormant plants. Environments vary in their proportion of good sites as defined above. Phenotypes that include dormancy vary in the probability that an individual will go dormant when in a bad site.

Conclusions: To assess the fitness of dormancy as a life-history trait, one must know the proportion of good sites in the environment and the response accuracy of the plastic phenotype to environmental variation. The fitness of dormancy in a life-history repertoire cannot be determined solely from comparing reproductive values or their components between dormant and vegetative plants. Likewise, dormancy cannot be assessed as a bet-hedging mechanism without knowledge of variation in environmental conditions and plant responses to that variation.

Keywords: bet-hedging, dormancy, fitness, life history, Lilium catesbaei, reproductive value.

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