A major determinant of the geographic distribution of a species is expected to be its physiological response to changing abiotic variables over its range. The range of a species often corresponds to the geographic extent of temperature regimes the organism can physiologically tolerate. Many species have very distinct life history stages that may exhibit different responses to environmental factors. In this study we emphasized the critical role of the haploid microscopic stage (gametophyte) of the life cycle to explain the difference of edge distribution of two related kelp species. Lessonia nigrescens was recently identified as two cryptic species occurring in parapatry along the Chilean coast: one located north and the other south of a biogeographic boundary at latitude 29-30°S. Six life history traits from microscopic stages were identified and estimated under five treatments of temperature in eight locations distributed along the Chilean coast in order to (1) estimate the role of temperature in the present distribution of the two cryptic L. nigrescens species, (2) compare marginal populations to central populations of the two cryptic species. In addition, we created a periodic matrix model to estimate the population growth rate (λ) at the five temperature treatments. Differential tolerance to temperature was demonstrated between the two species, with the gametophytes of the Northern species being more tolerant to higher temperatures than gametophytes from the south. Second, the two species exhibited different life history strategies with a shorter haploid phase in the Northern species contrasted with considerable vegetative growth in the Southern species haploid stage. These results provide strong ecological evidence for the differentiation process of the two cryptic species and show local adaptation of the life cycle at the range limits of the distribution. Ecological and evolutionary implications of these findings are discussed. © 2012 Oppliger et al.
Oppliger, L. V., Correa, J. A., Engelen, A. H., Tellier, F., Vieira, V., Faugeron, S., … Destombe, C. (2012). Temperature effects on gametophyte life-history traits and geographic distribution of two cryptic kelp species. PLoS ONE, 7(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0039289