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Correlations between developmentally plastic traits may constrain the joint evolution of traits. In plants, both seedling de-etiolation and shade avoidance elongation responses to crowding and foliage shade are mediated by partially overlapping developmental pathways, suggesting the possibility of pleiotropic constraints. To test for such constraints, we exposed inbred lines of Impatiens capensis to factorial combinations of leaf litter (which affects de-etiolation) and simulated foliage shade (which affects phytochrome-mediated shade avoidance). Increased elongation of hypocotyls caused by leaf litter phenotypically enhanced subsequent elongation of the first internode in response to low red∶far red (R∶FR). Trait expression was correlated across litter and shade conditions, suggesting that phenotypic effects of early plasticity on later plasticity may affect variation in elongation traits available to selection in different light environments.
von Wettberg EJB, Stinchcombe JR, Schmitt J (2012) Early Developmental Responses to Seedling Environment Modulate Later Plasticity to Light Spectral Quality. PLoS ONE 7(3): e34121. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034121