Phenotypic and genetic variation in Biscutella didyma and adaptation to environmental change - a combined ecological-genomic approach

Project code: WE 2897/5-2

Fig. 1

Adult Biscutella didyma plant grown in the greenhouse

Local adaptation and geographic separation are crucial for the evolution of diversity, and recent whole-genome analyses in humans have revealed evidence for spatial distribution of genetic differences. The forces shaping these patterns are, however, only understood in few cases, because it is generally not known how genetic differentiation arises in the first place. Top-down approaches can point to regions of the genome under selection in the recent past, but they rarely identify the responsible genes and the selected traits. Conversely, ecological studies on local adaptation have made little use of the progress in genomics. Here, we combine modern evolutionary ecology with state-of-the art genomics to study real-time evolution in Biscutella didyma. We utilize a unique field experiment to test genome-wide differentiation along an aridity gradient, study whether genome-wide signatures of selection are detectable in populations that have been exposed to manipulated precipitation regimes, and whether phenotypic variability in response to selection gradients corresponds to theoretical predictions. Our findings will enable us to develop models of adaptive capacity of this species under predicted climate change. We will also test models of life history evolution against realistic scenarios of genetic structure and its interaction with stabilizing and balancing selection.

Fig. 2

Experimental set-up in Israel. Plats are grown at various sites with different amounts of rainfall per year. Experimental sites are indicated as black dots in the map, different colors distinguish the different amounts of rainfall per year. MM mesic Mediterranean, M Mediterranean, SA semi-arid, A arid condition.

Publications related to the project

  • Koenig, D. and Weigel, D. (2015). Beyond the thale: comparative genomics and genetics of Arabidopsis relatives. Nat Rev Genet 16: 285-298.  Weblink Weblink
  • Weigel, D. and Nordborg, M. (2015). Population Genomics for Understanding in Wild Plant Species. Annu Rev Genet 49:315-38.  Weblink Weblink
  • Weigel, D. (2012). Natural Variation in Arabidopsis: From Molecular Genetics to Ecological Genomics. Plant Physiol 158: 2-22.  Weblink
  • Ossowski, S., Schneeberger, K., Clark, R. M., Lanz, C., and Weigel, D. Sequencing of natural strains of Arabidopsis thaliana with short reads. Genome Res 18 , 2024-2033 (2008).  Weblink Weblink
  • Petru, M., Tielbörger, K., Belkin, R. & Sternberg, M., and Jeltsch, F. Life history variation of an annual plant under two opposing selective forces along a steep climatic gradient. Ecography 29 , 66-74 (2006).  Weblink



  • Detlef Weigel
    Prof. Dr. Detlef Weigel
    Principal Investigator
    MPI for Developmental Biology, Tübingen
    Office: +49 (0)7071 / 601-1411
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  • Dino Jolic, Ph. D. student
    Collaborating Scientist
    Office:+49 (0)27071 / 601-1408
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Linked Projects

  • PI Katja Tielbörger
    University of Tübingen
    TI 338/11-1
  • PI Christian Schlötterer
    University of Vienna
    SCHL 429/3-2