, Volume 73, Issue 3, pp 436-446

Polyploidy and habitat differentiation in Dactylis glomerata L. from Galicia (Spain)

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Summary

The microdistribution of diploid and tetraploid plants of Dactylis glomerata L. was examined and related to their immediate environment in several sites in central Galicia, where morphologically indistinguishable individuals of both ploidies grow in sympatry. The two related cytotypes differed in habitat preference. Diploids were mainly confined to the low-density forest-floor habitat in woodlands of mostly ancient origin, whereas tetraploids were widespread in varied habitats but clearly predominant in open areas, particularly in disturbed anthropic sites. The in situ comparison of plant performance showed that where plants of each ploidy were more common they produced more tillers, panicles and seeds. This habitat preference closely reflected differences in life-history characteristics. The tetraploids had an early and short flowering time almost always completed before the aestival drought, whereas the diploids began to flower several weeks later and flowered throughout the drought. Comparisons along artificial gradients of soil water availability and light transmittance indicated that the cytotypes had distinct physiological requirements which probably originated in metabolic and more general genetic differentiation and could be directly attributable to ploidy. Habitat differentiation increases the species' colonizing ability. It also amplifies divergence in reproductive strategy between diploids and tetraploids, which reduces ineffective crossing between cytotypes and thereby permits them to coexist in sympatry. The effect of hybridization at the polyploid level on the differentiation between cytotypes was assessed from the recent introduction of a foreign tetraploid entity into the study area. Hybridization between the two distinct tetraploids was found to increase habitat differentiation between the diploids and the tetraploids, but the major part of this differentiation is probably attributable to ploidy itself.