, Volume 148, Issue 2, pp 183–194 | Cite as

Growth and leaf physiology of monkeyflowers with different altitude ranges

  • Amy Lauren AngertEmail author


Every species is limited both geographically and ecologically to a subset of available habitats, yet for many species the causes of distribution limits are unknown. Temperature is thought to be one of the primary determinants of species distributions along latitudinal and altitudinal gradients. This study examined leaf physiology and plant performance under contrasting temperature regimes of sister species of monkeyflower, Mimulus cardinalis and Mimulus lewisii (Phrymaceae), that differ in altitude distribution to test the hypothesis that temperature is the primary determinant of differences in fitness versus altitude. Each species attained greatest aboveground biomass, net photosynthetic rate, and effective quantum yield of photosystem II when grown under temperatures characteristic of the altitudinal range center. Although both species exhibited greater stem length, stomatal conductance, and intercellular CO2 concentration in hot than in cold temperatures, these traits showed much greater reductions under cold temperature for M. cardinalis than for M. lewisii. Survival of M. lewisii was also sensitive to temperature, showing a striking decrease in hot temperatures. Within each temperature regime, the species native to that temperature displayed greatest growth and leaf physiological capacity. Populations from the altitude range center and range margin of each species were used to examine population differentiation, but central and marginal populations did not differ in most growth or leaf physiological responses to temperature. This study provides evidence that M. cardinalis and M. lewisii differ in survival, growth, and leaf physiology under temperature regimes characterizing their contrasting low and high altitude range centers, and suggests that the species’ altitude range limits may arise, in part, due to metabolic limitations on growth that ultimately decrease survival and limit reproduction.


Range boundary Distribution limit Altitude Temperature Photosynthesis 



I thank M. Bricker, D. Ellair, M. Hammond, and A. MacMillian for assistance with data collection and plant care. Financial support was provided by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. D. Ackerly, T. Bradshaw, J. Conner, K. Gross, H. Maherali, R. Monson, D. Schemske, and two anonymous reviewers provided many helpful comments on the manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material


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© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ecology & Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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