Term of Award

Summer 2011

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Lorne M. Wolfe

Committee Member 1

D. Kelly McLain

Committee Member 2

J. Scott Harrison

Abstract

One of the over-arching goals of biology is to determine the relative importance of nature versus nurture. Nature versus nurture reflects the relative contribution of an individual's genetic makeup and environment to its growth and reproduction. In addition, the environment experienced by an individual's mother can also indirectly affect the performance of her offspring - these are environmental maternal effects (EME). For example, if a mother experiences a high quality environment, her offspring may respond with enhanced growth. We expect natural variation in habitat quality to lead to high levels of EME since mothers will vary in the environment they experience. The goal of my thesis was to quantify EME using a plant species, Silene latifolia, which is native to Europe and invasive in North America. I did this by experimentally comparing the amount of variation in life history traits between two generations: Natural (Parent) and Uniform (Offspring). The Parent generation was obtained by collecting seeds from natural populations of Europe and North America (expect high levels of variation). The Offspring generation seeds were created by hand-pollinations from plants growing under uniform greenhouse conditions (expect low levels of variation). Although Parents were only found to be significantly more variable than Offspring for a few life history traits, there was an overall trend in this direction. Therefore, environmental maternal effects are more prevalent in variable habitats. This variation could play a role in Silene's invasion history, enabling the founding population to be better suited for variable environmental conditions.

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