Natural variation for drought-response traits in the Mimulus guttatus species complex
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Soil moisture is a key factor affecting plant abundance and distribution, both across and within species. In response to water limitation, plants have evolved numerous morphological, physiological, and phenological adaptations. In both well-watered and water-limited conditions, we identified considerable natural variation in drought-related whole-plant and leaf-level traits among closely related members of the Mimulus guttatus species complex that occupy a diversity of habitats in the field. The self-fertilizing Mimulus nasutus and serpentine-endemic Mimulus nudatus demonstrated the overall greatest tolerance to soil water limitation, exhibiting the smallest reduction in seed set relative to well-watered conditions. This may be due in part to early flowering, faster fruit development, and low stomatal density. In contrast, flowering of coastal M. guttatus was so delayed that it precluded any seed production in water-limited conditions. This range of phenotypic responses to soil water deficit in Mimulus, coupled with developing genomic resources, holds considerable promise for identifying genomic variation responsible for adaptive responses to soil water availability.