Canalization of seasonal phenology in the presence of developmental variation: Seed dormancy cycling in an annual weed

Brianne Edwards, Liana T. Burghardt, Katherine E. Kovach, Kathleen Donohue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Variation in the developmental timing in one life stage may ramify within and across generations to disrupt optimal phenology of other life stages. By focusing on a common mechanism of developmental arrest in plants-seed dormancy-we investigated how variation in flowering time influenced seed germination behavior and identified potential processes that can lead to canalized germination behavior despite variation in reproductive timing. We quantified effects of reproductive timing on dormancy cycling by experimentally manipulating the temperature during seed maturation and the seasonal timing of seed dispersal/burial, and by assessing temperature-dependent germination of unearthed seeds over a seasonal cycle. We found that reproductive timing, via both seed-maturation temperature and the timing of dispersal, strongly influenced germination behavior in the weeks immediately following seed burial. However, buried seeds subsequently canalized their germination behavior, after losing primary dormancy and experiencing natural temperature and moisture conditions in the field. After the complete loss of primary dormancy, germination behavior was similar across seed-maturation and dispersal treatments, even when secondary dormancy was induced. Maternal effects themselves may contribute to the canalization of germination: first, by inducing stronger dormancy in autumnmatured seeds, and second by modifying the responses of those seeds to their ambient environment. Genotypes differed in dormancy cycling, with functional alleles of known dormancy genes necessary for the suppression of germination at warm temperatures in autumn through spring across multiple years. Loss of function of dormancy genes abolished almost all dormancy cycling. In summary, effects of reproductive phenology on dormancy cycling of buried seeds were apparent only as long as seeds retained primary dormancy, and a combination of genetically imposed seed dormancy, maternally induced seed dormancy, and secondary dormancy can mitigate variation in germination behavior imposed by variation in reproductive phenology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1021-1039
Number of pages19
JournalIntegrative and comparative biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Plant Science


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