American Society of Naturalists

A membership society whose goal is to advance and to diffuse knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles so as to enhance the conceptual unification of the biological sciences.

Symposium: “Adaptations between ecotypes and along environmental gradients in Panicum virgatum”

Posted on by Owen

David Bryant Lowry, Kathrine D. Behrman, Paul Grabowski, Geoffrey P. Morris, James R. Kiniry, and Thomas E. Juenger

The lowland ecotype of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) growing in a limestone fissure at Pedernales Falls State Park in central Texas.
(Credit: D. B. Lowry)


Determining the patterns and mechanisms of natural selection in the wild is of fundamental importance to understanding the differentiation of populations and the evolution of new species. However, it is often unknown the extent to which adaptive genetic variation is distributed among ecotypes between distinct habitats versus along large-scale geographic environmental gradients, such as those that track latitude. Classic selection in the wild experiments in switchgrass, Panicum virgatum, tested for adaptation at both of these levels of natural variation. Here we review what these field experiments, as well as modern agronomic field trials, have taught us about natural variation and selection at both the ecotype and environmental gradient level in P. virgatum. With the recent genome sequencing efforts of P. virgatum, it is poised to become an excellent system for understanding the adaptation of grassland species across the eastern half of North America. The identification of genetic loci involved in different types of adaptations will help to understand the evolutionary mechanisms of diversification within P. virgatum and provide useful information for the breeding of high yielding cultivars for different ecoregions. Read the Article